Large-scale study confirms link between creativity and mental illness

(Medical Xpress)—People in creative professions are treated more often for mental illness than the general population, there being a particularly salient connection between writing and schizophrenia. This according to researchers at Karolinska Institutet, whose large-scale Swedish registry study is the most comprehensive ever in its field.

Last year, the team showed that artists and scientists were more common amongst families where bipolar disorder and is present, compared to the population at large. They subsequently expanded their study to many more psychiatric diagnoses - such as schizoaffective disorder, depression, anxiety syndrome, , drug abuse, autism, ADHD, and suicide - and to include people in rather than exclusively .

The present study tracked almost 1.2 million patients and their relatives, identified down to second-cousin level. Since all were matched with healthy controls, the study incorporated much of the Swedish population from the most recent decades. All data was anonymized and cannot be linked to any individuals.

The results confirmed those of their previous study: certain mental illness - bipolar disorder - is more prevalent in the entire group of people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors. Authors specifically also were more common among most of the other psychiatric diseases (including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety syndrome and substance abuse) and were almost 50 per cent more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

The researchers also observed that creative professions were more common in the relatives of patients with schizophrenia, , anorexia nervosa and, to some extent, autism. According to Simon Kyaga, consultant in psychiatry and doctoral student at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the results give cause to reconsider approaches to mental illness.

"If one takes the view that certain phenomena associated with the patients illness are beneficial, it opens the way for a new approach to treatment," he says. "In that case, the doctor and patient must come to an agreement on what is to be treated, and at what cost. In psychiatry and medicine generally there has been a tradition to see the disease in black-and-white terms and to endeavour to treat the patient by removing everything regarded as morbid."

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More information: Kyaga, S. et al., Mental illness, suicide and creativity: 40-Year prospective total population study. Journal of Psychiatric Research, corrected proof online 9 October 2012. … &itool=pubmed_docsum
Journal information: Journal of Psychiatric Research

Citation: Large-scale study confirms link between creativity and mental illness (2012, October 16) retrieved 21 August 2019 from
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Oct 16, 2012
-and in what way is that relevant for their results?

Oct 16, 2012
"Psychiatrists and psychologists have the fewest of any group/individual disorders."
- Said nobody, ever.

I think ultimately psychiatry does not claim to be the "authority" on mental illness so much as many people, including yourself imagine it to claim. It simply takes a series of difficult to quantify and difficult to treat disorders with complex physiological underpinnings (which are just beginning to be understood) and assigns to them a set of objective measures so that SOME attempt at treatment can be attempted. its not an exact science, but is any science a truly exact science? just people doing their best to solve real world problems, instead of trolling physorg comment sections...

Oct 17, 2012
It would be worth considering that mentally ill people are more likely to become creative, rather than the other way around.

Creativity is something that's particularly useful in areas where there's a deficiency. If you're missing an arm or a leg, you have to be creative to workaround it. Same goes for mental deficiencies.

Oct 18, 2012
"Large-scale study confirms link between creativity and mental illness"

the title that brings smile on the face of every single fruit loop on this forum...

Oct 18, 2012
Makes you wonder: What if its stress that causes these increases in mental illness? Lets see how the rank of stressful jobs correlates with the rank of "creative jobs" and also the amount of mental illness.

You could certainly imagine that these professions (including psychologists, psychiatrists) are highly self-aware and perhaps they are more likely to report and get treatment for mental illness, where someone else may just ignore it, or find it such a gradual decline that they don't even realize it.

Oct 18, 2012
From the actual paper: "creative professions denotes the overall aggregated group of scientific and artistic occupations, while creative occupations is used for creative professions and for any of the subgroups (i.e., scientific and artistic)."

So if your definition of creative is that your a scientist or an artist, that is a pretty vague and inclusive definition, thus I wonder if high stress could be a greater feature of this group than "creativity"

Oct 20, 2012
"Surprisingly, much of what people call mental illness is really just iron anemia causing delusions...The lower income earnings of the art group would throw then into that mode more quickly than better earners(hence the correlation in the article)...An over the counter daily iron pill from your pharmacists's counter will go a long long way to curing so called bipolar & other worse diagnoses...(& talking cures won't fix nutritional deficiencies, nor will they help with the low income artists get...)"

Care to share your delusional statements with any type of factual evidence? That is funny, because anemia is one of the things commonly checked for before diagnosis, which leaves your statement utterly useless.

Please refrain from judging the diagnosis of millions of people before you have an adequate knowledge of the subject matter, your only doing disservice to those who have it and to those who diagnose it as well.

Thank you.

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