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Creative people more at risk of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, huge study finds


Creative people may be 90 per cent more likely to suffer from schizophrenia than the average person, new research suggests.

Bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia all develop more often in people who have degrees in artistic subjects, according to a study by King’s College London.

It has previously been found that creative people’s brains work differently, which scientists think may make them more at risk of mental-health problems.

A study of the entire Swedish population’s medical and education records found those who studied subjects like music, drama or art at university have more psychiatric conditions than the general public.

People who studied law degrees do not have a higher risk, suggesting the increase is not caused by people going to university.

Creative people may be 90 per cent more likely to suffer from schizophrenia (stock) 

Creative people may be 90 per cent more likely to suffer from schizophrenia (stock) 

WHAT IS SCHIZOPHRENIA?

Figures suggest around 1 per cent of the world population suffer with schizophrenia, with 220,000 diagnosed in England and Wales and around two million in the US.

Seven in ten hear voices at some point, making auditory hallucinations of the most common symptoms.

These voices, may be ‘heard’ as having a variety of different characteristics, for example as friendly or threatening. 

Hearing voices – known as ‘verbal hallucinations’ – is highly distressing and a third of patients do not respond to medications. 

Sensitive minds may be more vulnerable to depression

The study’s author Dr James McCabe told the New Scientist: ‘Creativity often involves linking ideas or concepts in ways that other people wouldn’t think of.

‘But that’s similar to how delusions work – for example, seeing a connection between the colour of someone’s clothes and being part of an MI5 conspiracy.’

He suggested the genetic makeup that makes people creative may be linked to the factors making them more likely to have mental-health problems.

It is also possible that people who are particularly moved by art – even if not artists themselves – might be more at risk of emotional instability.

‘Someone who is moved to tears by looking at a painting may have greater artistic sensitivity but also be more vulnerable to depression,’ Dr McCabe added. 

The findings were published in The British Journal of Psychiatry.

People who study subjects like music at university have more psychiatric conditions (stock)

People who study subjects like music at university have more psychiatric conditions (stock)

Creative people are 62% more likely to have bipolar disorder 

Results further suggest creative people are 62 per cent more likely to be admitted to hospital for bipolar disorder, and 39 per cent more likely to be admitted for depression.

Hospitalisation for the conditions usually occurs in people in their mid-30s

Sweden has a population of approximately 10 million people, with the findings adding to a study of 86,000 people in Iceland in 2015.

The Icelandic study found a genetic link to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in creative people, such as musicians and artists.

There were concerns about the researchers’ definition of creative people, due to only those who had arts degrees being studied.

Harvard University’s Dr Shelley Carson said: ‘It’s not ideal because many highly creative people are not studying art.’

Professor Jeremy Hall at Cardiff University added: ‘My advice to artists would be the same as to anyone else worried about developing psychosis. Don’t smoke cannabis and try to lead a generally healthy life.’

Schizophrenia overwhelmingly caused by genetics 

Whether cannabis use causes schizophrenia has been hotly debated in recent months, however, research released last year suggested that around 79 per cent of cases could be explained by genetics.

A study of 60,000 people, published in Biological Psychiatry, suggested the genes people inherit play a far bigger role than previously believed.

Half of the 21 million schizophrenia patients worldwide do not receive care for the condition, according to the World Health Organization.

Even when they do, existing drugs do not get to the root of the illness and there have been few advances in the last 50 years, say experts.

Treatment is currently limited to addressing one specific symptom of the disease – psychosis.

The findings offer hope of screening for the devastating mental illness before it takes hold, allowing for more successful treatments, according to the researchers, from the University of Copenhagen.



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