Creativity and mental disorder: family study of 300,000 people with severe mental disorder

Br J Psychiatry. 2011 Nov;199(5):373-9. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.085316. Epub 2011 Jun 8.


Background: There is a long-standing belief that creativity is coupled with psychopathology.

Aims: To test this alleged association and to investigate whether any such association is the result of environmental or genetic factors.

Method: We performed a nested case-control study based on Swedish registries. The likelihood of holding a creative occupation in individuals who had received in-patient treatment for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or unipolar depression between 1973 and 2003 and their relatives without such a diagnosis was compared with that of controls.

Results: Individuals with bipolar disorder and healthy siblings of people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were overrepresented in creative professions. People with schizophrenia had no increased rate of overall creative professions compared with controls, but an increased rate in the subgroup of artistic occupations. Neither individuals with unipolar depression nor their siblings differed from controls regarding creative professions.

Conclusions: A familial cosegregation of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with creativity is suggested.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / epidemiology
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Creativity*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Registries*
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology*
  • Schizophrenia / genetics
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Siblings
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Young Adult