A new study conducted on a sample population in Iceland indicates that there is a link between mental disorders and creativity.
Albeit the link is only weakly hinted at, the researchers believe there are most certainly individuals in which this link is prevalent. The findings of the study go as far as suggesting that in creative families altogether, there is one genome that is genetically inherited and passing on the risk score for developing mental disorder the likes of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
A romantic notion dating back to the 19th century and rooted even in ancient Greek culture, artists of any kind seem to need a tormenting process that fuels their work to the maximum of its potential.
The researchers from King’s College, London wanted to see if there is indeed any truth to this notion. The population segment they sampled was general and comprised 86,292 individuals. Of these, some came from the creative ranks: national actors’ societies, writers, musicians, visual artists or dancers.
The study focused on analyzing DNA samples retrieved from the deCODE library and pertaining to those included in the study.
And while creativity is difficult to pinpoint for scientific research, a generic definition would be that it entails the use of new approaches that require highly engaging cognitive processes. These are different from usual ways of expressing or thinking of something.
With this background, the researchers set on to understand how creativity impacts the possibility of developing mental disorders.
As it stands, combining the data from the DNA database with the prevalence of mental disorders diagnoses, and looking at the creative category the people came from, the results suggest that there is a higher prevalence of mental disorders in the creative categories of the population.
Genetic risk scores where more obvious for people who display creativity regarding both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
deCODE, the genetics database is Reykjavik company founded by Kari Stefansson. The CEO and founder commented in light of the findings that:
“To be creative, you have to think differently. And when we are different, we have a tendency to be labelled strange, crazy and even insane.”
According to the results, the genetic risk scores for schizophrenia doubled in the case of creative people, with those of bipolar disorder increasing by one third. For members of the creative category, there was a prevalence of 17 percent of being diagnosed with these disorder when compared to common individuals.
The results of the Iceland based study where compared to similar ones that focused on the population of Netherlands and Sweden. The findings were very similar, pointing to the same prevalence for mental disorders in the creative category.
However, the study was met with reluctance by other professionals who suggested that the notion of creativity poses many challenges in being accurately defined for scientific purposes and that to this extent it defies its purpose.
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