Australian research has found that while lawyers and law students have similar Body Mass Indexes to the general Australian population, both groups are far more concerned than the typical person about their weight and shape.
Researchers from Edith Cowan University and the University of Western Australia conducted a survey of 428 law students and 148 lawyers across Australia to investigate the correlation between self-reported levels of psychological and physical distress and their concerns about eating, weight and shape, and exercise.
The results, "Looking beyond the mirror: Psychological distress; disordered eating, weight and shape concerns; and maladaptive eating habits in lawyers and law students" were published recently in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry.
Many of the research respondents were inclined to adopt unhealthy eating behaviours such as snacking instead of eating properly, or skipping meals altogether.
The research found that around 75-90% of professional lawyers had at least once in the past month had lunch at their desk, snacked instead of eating a proper meal, skipped a meal, and used caffeine to get through the day. Around 50% of lawyers were doing each of these things frequently.
Dr Shane Rogers from ECU’s School of Arts and Humanities says the legal profession is widely recognised to be a high-pressure occupation and it is important for lawyers and law students to take better care of themselves, both mentally and physically.
“Our results suggest that it may be worthwhile for many people in the profession to reflect on the way that they think about their eating and their weight and shape,” Dr Rogers says.
“While we recognise that impression management is important for lawyers, it’s about being wary of becoming obsessive."
Professor Natalie Skead from UWA Law School says law firms and law schools must implement strategies that support their staff and students in making healthy lifestyle choices.
“This might include providing healthy food options and enough time during the day to for meals,” Professor Skead says.
“It is also important for law students and lawyers to make time in the busy schedules to exercise regularly."
The research is consistent with prior studies that found elevated levels of distress among law students and practising lawyers compared to general population norms. On average, in this research both law students and lawyers were well beyond general population norms for eating, weight, and shape concerns.
New Zealand health assessment tool
An agreement between the New Zealand Law Society and Vitality Works allows practising lawyers to use the Wellbeing 360 health assessment tool.
Lawyers who complete the Wellbeing 360 assessment will get an immediate personalised report on their physical wellbeing and mental, work and social wellbeing.
To begin the assessment, lawyers need to give their name and email address. Inputting their Law Society Registry login password is optional as all information is completely confidential. After providing details, lawyers will receive an invitation to participate in the Wellbeing 360 online health assessment.