Medical Mysteries of Music

Is there anything to the idea of the musical mad genius? Maybe.

Having interviewed hundreds of musicians over the years, I can tell you that some of them are a bit…off. Their brains are so wired towards making music and being generally creative that you can tell that they’re somehow different–a bit made, even.

Turns out that this may not be just a subjective impression. From The Times of London:

A definitive link between creative brilliance and mental health has been hard to establish, however, partly because of the difficulty in defining what creativity actually is. Now a review of census data taken from Sweden’s extensive public records has shown that creativity and mental health conditions are associated with one another, and could even point to a common cause.

Researchers defined “broadly creative”  as someone who was deep into theatre, media, dance, visual art, and music.

The study looked at more than four million people, discovering that those who studied some kind of creative subject at the university level were 90% more likely to develop schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder than the general population.

Researchers were careful to point out that this did NOT mean that studying the creative arts led to illness. Rather it seems to suggest those genetically predisposed to these sorts of mental illnesses take an interest in them for some reason.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38051 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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