Is an elevated family-genetic risk for major psychiatric disorders specific to creative occupations?

Kenneth S. Kendler, Henrik Ohlsson, Jan Sundquist, Kristina Sundquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background Despite a large descriptive literature linking creativity and risk for psychiatric illness, the magnitude and specificity of this relationship remain controversial. Methods We examined, in 1 137 354 native Swedes with one of 59 3-digit official and objective occupational codes in managerial and educated classes, their familial genetic risk score (FGRS) for ten major disorders, calculated from 1st through 5th degree relatives. Mean FGRS across disorders were calculated, in 3- and 4-digit occupational groups, and then controlled for those whose disorder onset preceded occupational choice. Using sequential analyses, p values were evaluated using Bonferroni correction. Results 3-digit professions considered to reflect creativity (e.g. 'artists' and 'authors') were among those with statistically significant elevations of FGRS. Among more specific 4-digit codes, visual artists, actors, and authors stood out with elevated genetic risks, highest for major depression (MD), anxiety disorders (AD) and OCD, more modest for bipolar disorders (BD) and schizophrenia and, for authors, for drug and alcohol use disorders. However, equal or greater elevations in FGRS across disorders were seen for religious (e.g. ministers), helping (e.g. psychologists, social workers), and teaching/academic occupations (e.g. professors). The potential pathway from FGRS → Disorder → Occupation accounts for a modest proportion of the signal, largely for MD and AD risk. Conclusions While traditional creative occupations were associated with elevated genetic risk for a range of psychiatric disorders, this association was not unique, as similar, or greater elevations were seen for religious, helping and teaching professions and was stronger for internalizing than psychotic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4474-4486
Number of pages13
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 8 Jul 2023


  • Creativity
  • depression
  • occupations
  • psychiatric illness
  • schizophrenia


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