The image of the mad scientist is common in stories, as is that of the deranged or alcoholic artist. Now we know there may be some truth in fiction.
A forty-year study has confirmed a link between mental illness and creativity. The study, carried out by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, tracked 1.2 million patients and compared them to controls. A significant association was found between the incidence of mental ill-health and such professions as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors.
Last year, the team showed that artists and scientists were more likely to have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia than the general population.
Authors were found to be at highest risk of mental ill health. They are 50% more likely to commit suicide. The relatives of people in creative professions are also more likely to experience mental illness.
“If one takes the view that certain phenomena associated with the patient’s illness are beneficial, it opens the way for a new approach to treatment,” said Simon Kyaga, Consultant in psychiatry and Doctoral Student at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics.