40 Year Study on Mental Illness and Creativity

The 40 year, longitudinal study aimed to 1) investigate if creativity is associated with all psychiatric disorders or restricted to those with psychotic features, and 2) to specifically investigate authors in relationship to psychopathology.

The Journal of Psychiatric Research found evidence in a new study published earlier this month that higher numbers of artists and scientists were from families with a history of severe mental illness. An association was found between creative professions (artists and scientists) and first-degree relatives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa, and for siblings of patients with autism.

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Over One Million Surveyed

Previous studies have also demonstrated the relationship between creativity and mental illness, however, researchers at the Karolinska Institute near Stockholm used a new dataset with a considerably larger sample of patients (n = 1,173,763) to survey other psychiatric diagnoses besides schizophrenia. Diagnoses included in the study were schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, autism, ADHD, anorexia nervosa, and completed suicide.

The Findings

Individuals with overall creative professions were not more likely to suffer from investigated psychiatric disorders. However, being an author was specifically associated with increased likelihood of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.

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