Health, Love and Happiness Are Preserve of Poets
Liz Hunt Health Editor, The Independent (London, England)
Young writers take heed. If you want good health, a satisfactory sex life and longevity, then express yourself in verse, rather than playwriting or prose.
A new study suggests poets are not the angst-ridden victims of popular belief. Compared to playwrights and novelists they are models of mental stability.
An analysis of 100 well-known British and US writers, including Hemingway, Waugh, Conrad and Scott Fitzgerald, found poets suffered less from severe depressions, alcoholism, personality deviations and marital and sexual problems.
There was one drawback for poets highlighted by the study: they suffered higher levels of severe manic depression, requiring hospital treatment, than playwrights and novelists. Mood swings between elation and depression were found in 25 per cent of them, against only 7 per cent of other writers.
They appeared to live longer; 43 per cent were over the age of 74 when they died, compared with 38 per cent of playwrights and only 24 per cent of novelists. While they were living, poets also enjoyed happier marriages than fellow scribes. More than 70 per cent of the playwrights had problematic or broken marriages, compared with just 26 per cent for poets.
Overall, only one third of the writers enjoyed satisfactory marriages, according to the study published today in the British Journal of Psychiatry. They were most likely to be poets and least likely to be playwrights. This may have been a result of the latter's promiscuity; more than 40 per cent of them were notorious for their sexual behaviour, compared with 20 per cent of novelist/poets, and 14 per cent of poets.
Dr Felix Post, emeritus physician at The Bethlem Royal Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital, London, collected data from the post-mortem biographies of the writers and compared abnormalities. …