Creatives more prone to depression: myth or reality?

The depressed or manic creative is a well-known stereotype. But where’s the evidence to prove that it’s true?
A young male artist with a beard, wearing a beanie and glasses in front of a graffiti style painting of a human figure.

‘Can an artist do anything if they’re happy?’

So asked the renowned writer Aldous Huxley in a catchcry that has been shared by artists and non-artists alike, and which has contributed to widespread perceptions of creative work as being fuelled by pain and suffering.

But could these ideas about the angst and sadness that are supposedly required to be a ‘real’ artist be doing more harm than good? Where’s the hard evidence to prove this well-known narrative is true?

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ArtsHub's Arts Feature Writer Jo Pickup is based in Perth. An arts writer and manager, she has worked as a journalist and broadcaster for media such as the ABC, RTRFM and The West Australian newspaper, contributing media content and commentary on art, culture and design. She has also worked for arts organisations such as Fremantle Arts Centre, STRUT dance, and the Aboriginal Arts Centre Hub of WA, as well as being a sessional arts lecturer at The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).