Writers have higher risk of mental illness: study

Swedish researchers found that writers, more than the general public, tend to suffer from anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, substance abuse, and more.

Writing can be a lonely, thankless job—even (or especially) in a corporate setting.

It’s been known to drive people to drink.

Now a new study suggests that writers also have a higher risk of mental illness.

According to a Swedish study, writers have a higher risk than the general population of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse. They were also about twice as likely to commit suicide.

To reach these findings, researchers from the Karolinska Institute looked at the anonymous health records of nearly 1.2 million people over a 40-year period. Their results are published this month in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

Curiously, the creative population as a whole—which includes writers, dancers, photographers, and artists—was “no more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people,” according to a BBC report on the study.

This isn’t the first study to link writers to mental health disorders. A 2006 report in Yahoo News said that poets had a “much higher rate of mental illness than nonfiction writers who tend to be the most rational and analytic.” Researchers from a different study found that 71 percent of famous 20th-century authors suffered from alcoholism.

While alcoholism is not to be taken lightly, PR Daily in April asked writers whether drinking helps inspire their work. Here were the results.

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