Waking up hungover, eating a diet that mainly consists of instant noodles and chips, forgoing sleep in order to complete yet another essay: there’s little about the Oxford lifestyle that is beneficial to your health. But could it actually shorten your lifespan?
The NHS Oxford health profile indicates that there are many potential health minefields in Oxford. Perhaps the greatest cause of illness in Oxford is stress. Stress not only has physical consequences, like that all-too-familiar termly weight gain and a reduction in the effectiveness of the immune system, but can be seriously detrimental to mental health. The toll of trying to complete essays alongside extracurricular activities can be seen in the high incidences of drug misuse and hospital stays for self-harm in Oxford, which are higher than the national average. This all could, however, easily be reduced if more people made the most of the counselling services provided by the University or even talked to their welfare representatives within College.
The recreational activities of Oxford students could also be creating future problems. Like plenty of students at other universities across the country, many Oxford students regularly exceed the weekly recommended alcohol limit of 14 units a week for women and 21 units a week for men. Whilst the number of injuries caused by excessive alcohol consumption is lower than the UK average, the long term effects of a few too many double vodka red bulls could be extremely negative. Binge drinking can contribute to liver damage, cancer and diabetes. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that drinking can lower your inhibitions, leading to dangerous decisions. There is a higher than average number of people in Oxford with acute STIs, which may potentially reflect a high number of drunken, unprotected liaisons.
Whilst this may all start to look a bit depressing, it is important to recognise that life expectancy in Oxford, at 80.3 years, is pretty high. Three years in Oxford is in no equivalent to a death sentence: in fact, Oxford residents have far fewer deaths caused by heart disease, strokes, cancer and smoking than many areas of the UK. The lethargy that strikes as soon as you return from an Oxford term can seem like a sign of near-fatal over-exertion – and indeed there are many potential health risks associated with studying in Oxford – but gaining an Oxford degree is unlikely to result in the loss of years from your lifespan. With the occasional early night, a few vegetables a day and a few minutes of relaxation, it is entirely possible for mind and body to thrive in Oxford.