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Creative people prone to mental illness: study

world Updated: Oct 17, 2012 23:48 IST

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People in creative professions are treated more often for mental illness than the general population, there being a link between writing and schizophrenia, according to a new study.

Researchers from Karolinska Institute, Sweden, in a large-scale study tracked almost 1.2 million patients and their relatives, identified down to second-cousin level.

The results showed that certain mental illnesses - bipolar disorder, for instance - are more prevalent in the entire group of people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors.

Authors also specifically were more common among most of the other psychiatric diseases (including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety syndrome and substance abuse) and were almost 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Further, the researchers observed that creative professions were more common in the relatives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa and, to some extent, autism.

According to Simon Kyaga, consultant in psychiatry and doctoral student at the department of medical epidemiology and biostatistics, the results give cause to reconsider approaches to mental illness.

"If one takes the view that certain phenomena associated with the patient's illness are beneficial, it opens the way for a new approach to treatment," he said.

Last year, the team showed that artists and scientists were more common amongst families where bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is present, compared to the population at large.