The British Journal of Psychiatry
Forty lives in the bebop business: mental health in a group of eminent jazz musicians


Background Above-average levels of psychopathology have been demonstrated convincingly in groups of outstanding individuals working in the arts. Currently, jazz musicians have not been studied in this regard.

Aims To investigate any evidence of psychopathology in a group of eminent jazz musicians.

Method Biographical material relating to 40 eminent American modern jazz musicians was reviewed and an attempt was made to formulate diagnoses using DSM–IV.

Results Evidence was provided of levels of psychopathology in the sample of jazz musicians similar to those found in other previously investigated creative groups, with the exception of substance related problems. An interesting connection between creativity and sensation-seeking was highlighted.

Conclusions The link between psychopathology and creativity in the arts was given further weight. Future studies of jazz musicians using larger samples and making comparison with groups from different eras of music would give greater clarification to this area.

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