A new study claims to have found a link between creativity and mental illness.
Kari Stefansson, founder and CEO of a genetics company based in Reykjavik, studied 86,000 Icelanders and concluded that “painters, musicians, writers and dancers were, on average, 25% more likely to carry the gene variants [evidencing mental illness] than professions the scientists judged to be less creative, among which were farmers, manual labourers and salespeople.”
Well fine, but the gene pool seems a bit limited. What about lawyers, cops, hairdressers, real estate agents, wine makers, ministers? And who determined that farmers and salespeople aren’t creative? Have you ever listened to a salesperson trying to sell you shit you do not need? Pure creative genius.
Not all in the psychobabble arena find the conclusions compelling. Albert Rothenberg, professor of psychiatry at Harvard University believes that there is no good evidence for a link between mental illness and creativity.
“It’s the romantic notion of the 19th century, that the artist is the struggler, aberrant from society, and wrestling with inner demons,” he said. “But take Van Gogh. He just happened to be mentally ill as well as creative.
And Steffanson’s takeaway brilliant conclusion?
“It means that a lot of the good things we get in life, through creativity, come at a price. It tells me that when it comes to our biology, we have to understand that everything is in some way good and in some way bad,” [Stefansson] said.
Well duh. Did we really need to study 86,000 Icelanders to reach that conclusion?
It is my personal observation of many years and thousands of subjects that there are plenty of mentally ill people in all walks of life. For those of us that also happen to be creative, it is our good luck and so sad for the rest of you.