Creativity and mental illness: prevalence rates in writers and their first-degree relatives

Am J Psychiatry. 1987 Oct;144(10):1288-92. doi: 10.1176/ajp.144.10.1288.


Rates of mental illness were examined in 30 creative writers, 30 matched control subjects, and the first-degree relatives of both groups. The writers had a substantially higher rate of mental illness, predominantly affective disorder, with a tendency toward the bipolar subtype. There was also a higher prevalence of affective disorder and creativity in the writers' first-degree relatives, suggesting that these traits run together in families and could be genetically mediated. Both writers and control subjects had IQs in the superior range; the writers excelled only on the WAIS vocabulary subtest, confirming previous observations that intelligence and creativity are independent mental abilities.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / genetics
  • Bipolar Disorder / epidemiology
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics
  • Creativity*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / genetics*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Vocabulary
  • Wechsler Scales
  • Writing*