Creative individuals have a disproportionately higher rate of mental illness, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and they and their relatives are more likely to work in artistic and scientific occupations, according to new research published in the November 2011 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
“Creativity has long been associated with mental disorder, epitomized by Aristotle’s claim that ‘no great genius has ever existed without a strain of madness,’ ” lead author Simon Kyaga, MD, from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, told Medscape Medical News.
“Working as a psychiatrist, I have many times encountered patients who, despite severe psychiatric disorder, were able to create in artistic and scientific areas, as well as being successful entrepreneurs,” Dr. Kyaga said. “I was therefore intrigued by the idea of a connection between creativity and madness, and together with my supervisors, we initiated the study, trying to provide answers to this old question.”
Dr. Kyaga and colleagues performed a nested case-control study using a variety of sources to obtain information on the association between creativity and mental illness.
These data sources included the Hospital Discharge Register, which provided discharge diagnoses for all in-patient treatment episodes for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and unipolar depression in Sweden between 1973 and 2003; the Multi-Generation Register, which identified biological relatives of patients; and national censuses for 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990, which provided information on professions in the entire Swedish population….
By Fran Lowry