A new Swedish study has found that creative types are more prone to mental illnesses like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
In 2011 researchers from the Karolinska Institutet near Stockholm discovered that families with a history of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were more likely to produce artists and scientists. Using the evidence from this study, the researchers widened the project and looked into 40 years worth of data from the Swedish health registry – analyzing the records of nearly 1.2 million patients and their relatives.
The study covers a larger section of the population and a wider scope of psychiatric diagnoses than the original study and the results were published in this month’s Journal of Psychiatric Research.
The research results found that mental illnesses, in particular bipolar disorder were more common in creative types like artists, actors, photographers, scientists, dancers or authors.
The findings suggest that writers specifically were more likely to suffer from schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. It also found that they were nearly 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
Other creative types were also found to be more likely to have family members who suffered from bipolar disorder, autism or anorexia.
Simon Kyaga, a doctoral student at the Karolinska Institutet and one of the researchers who worked on the study, suggested that the findings could alter the way in which practitioners treated mental illness. He said:
“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…In that case, the doctor and patient must come to an agreement on what is to be treated, and at what cost.”
A study conducted in Britain earlier in the year found that some people who had bipolar disorder believed that it could have a positive effect on their lives – acting to enhance their access to music and the arts.