Mental illness, suicide and creativity: 40-year prospective total population study

J Psychiatr Res. 2013 Jan;47(1):83-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2012.09.010. Epub 2012 Oct 9.


We previously demonstrated that patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and their relatives are overrepresented in creative occupations. Here, we use a new dataset with a considerably larger sample of patients (n = 1,173,763) to survey other psychiatric diagnoses and to validate previous findings. The specific aims of this study were to i) investigate if creativity is associated with all psychiatric disorders or restricted to those with psychotic features, and ii) to specifically investigate authors in relationship to psychopathology. We conducted a nested case-control study using longitudinal Swedish total population registries, where the occurrence of creative occupations in patients and their non-diagnosed relatives was compared to that of matched population controls. Diagnoses included were schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, autism, ADHD, anorexia nervosa, and completed suicide. Creative professions were defined as scientific and artistic occupations. Data were analyzed using conditional logistic regression. Except for bipolar disorder, individuals with overall creative professions were not more likely to suffer from investigated psychiatric disorders than controls. However, being an author was specifically associated with increased likelihood of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. In addition, we found an association between creative professions and first-degree relatives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa, and for siblings of patients with autism. We discuss the findings in relationship to some of the major components of creativity.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Creativity*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Mental Disorders / classification
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Occupations / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Time Factors