Previously, research has shown that adult artists, particularly female artists appear to be at an increased risk of depression. It is important to note that prior research has not indicated that people who are depressed become artists nor that artists are all depressed. Rather, that there is an association between being creative and suffering from depression.
A new study commissioned by the American Psychological Association (APA) sought out to establish if this association was present in early development.
Researchers examined data from the U.S. Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Young people aged 15 and 16 completed surveys between 2002 and 2008 answering questions on mood, wellbeing and the particular extracurricular activities that the participated in.
The data from 2,482 students was analysed. In what researchers believed to be the first study of its kind examining the relationship between extracurricular activities and mental health, the results showed the females had a greater likelihood of participating in artistic after school clubs and were subsequently more likely to display symptoms of depression.
The findings were published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. The study’s lead author Laura Younge reportedly said “(the findings) are not to say that depression is a necessary condition for either a teen or an adult to become an artist, nor are we showing that participating in the arts leads to mental illness.”
This research is interesting but further investigation is necessary in order to establish more details of the relationship between depression and the arts. Further research could also extend existing knowledge on the mechanisms behind of Art therapy.