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Are 'Arty' Teens More Likely to be Depressed?


There's always been a subtle rivalry between those interested in art those interested in sports. Art Kids think sports are dumb and pointless and and Sport Kids think art is bleak and depressing. And now we might know what's causing that split — a new study out of Boston College has linked student participation in arts with depression. Teens getting involved in theater, art, or music after school were more likely to describe mood problems like lack of motivation and sadness. The same study found teens were less likely to report such symptoms if they also played a sport, like, say, football.

football runner
Aw man, he's havin' a great ole' time! And I hate him for it.

This makes sense though, right? Being an artist means plumbing the depths of your soul, finding out hard truths about yourself and talking about them, conveying them to others. Take the student pictured below — Is she painting her inner turmoil?

high school painter
Oh wait, no. It was a forest. A kind of sh*tty forest.

So it's a chicken and egg question — do depressives trend towards art or does art make us depressed? Speaking for myself, as a depressive, I think a lot of my negative feelings stem from feeling unimportant. So when I was a kid I emulated what was already important to me — namely Batman: The Animated Series.

batman the animated series
This show was my JAM. Or rather, as much of a jam as a
slightly depressed seven year old can have.


Since I couldn't be Batman himself, I started writing and drawing for those characters. It made me feel important to be doing something that I found important, so I continued to pursue that feeling. A lot of weight was then put on the act of creating, and I thought of everything that didn't give me that feeling as worthless, boring, unimportant. Like, say, football.

high school football touchdown

So for me, I was already feeling depressed when I began to trend towards art, but because I saw it as something I could do that would make me important. But I was only making Batman important. Why is that any more important than football? Ultimately, that game is made important by its players — their hope, anger, fear, passion. It reveals football as a deeply human game. The simple, stupid, impossibly difficult truth is that anything can be important, because when something matters to a human, it matters in and of itself. So while art can be attractive to depressives, what I found really helpful was discovering that even something I considered unimportant was in fact important.

And things got a little better when I started applying that kind of thinking to myself.

What do you think of the art/ sports distinction being drawn in this study? Let me know on twitter @mikeyfromsu or in the comments below!


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