Substantiating the popular notion linking creativity and mental illness
PROBLEM: "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia," E.L Doctorow told the Paris Review. He was speaking metaphorically, as creative types do. Right?
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METHODOLOGY: In the most comprehensive study ever undertaken of this purported phenomenon, researchers at Karolinska Institute in Sweden gathered census data representing almost 1.2 million patients with schizoaffective disorder, depression, anxiety syndrome, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, autism, ADHD, anorexia nervosa and suicide. Then they looked at their employment in the the arts and sciences: "creative" occupations. The control, naturally, was "accountant."
RESULTS: Bipolar disorder was the only diagnosis found to be more prevalent in people with creativity-based careers, who were overall less likely to be diagnosed with the mental illnesses included in the study. (An earlier study of this same population had found, though, that families with a history of bipolar or schizophrenia were more likely to produce creative people.)