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Law School a Major Factor in Student Stress: NZ Survey

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More than 85% of New Zealand’s law students experience high levels of stress, and 95% of students say their legal studies are a direct or contributing factor, a new survey has revealed.

New Zealand Law Students’ Association’s first mental wellbeing study was conducted in June and the results were released late last month. Almost 900 law students from across New Zealand’s six law schools took part.

Eighty eight percent of respondents said that they felt more exposed to stress at law school and students reported that this stress had made them feel depressed, unmotivated and discouraged in their studies. Many students also said that they consumed unhealthy foods and energy drinks during stressful periods at law school.

Students said that expectations around marks was the most stressful thing about studying law (selected by 89% of respondents), followed by finding a job after law school (70%), the volume of readings (63%), the amount of study time required (56%), and pressure from other law students (51%). Only quarter of students said that the number of exams was stressful, and 18% believed the number of assignments contributed to their stress levels.

Twenty seven percent of students said that they had developed a mental health problem (such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, self-harm and insomnia) since commencing their degree. Of these students, one in six said that law school was a direct cause, and half said that studying law had been a contributing factor. Another 14 percent of students said that they had a pre-existing mental illness before they started their law degrees.

“These are disappointing, although unsurprising, results,” says NZLSA President Seamus Woods of the survey responses. NZLSA plans to use the survey results to help design programs to improve law students’ mental health. More information about the survey results is available at the NZLSA website.

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