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Book and Media Reviews
December 17, 2008

Poets on Prozac: Mental Illness, Treatment, and the Creative Process

JAMA. 2008;300(23):2804-2805. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.799

Poetry is risky. Want proof? Ponder the profiles of a few renowned poets. Sylvia Plath killed herself at age 30 years, putting her head in the oven with the gas turned on. At age 45, Anne Sexton committed suicide inside her car in the garage—death by carbon monoxide poisoning. John Keats perished from tuberculosis at the tender age of 25. As a group, poets tend to die at age 62. So if you must write, think about a genre safer than poetry. Choose the category of nonfiction, for example, and your statistical lifespan increases to 68 years. Pity the poet. When not succumbing to gas fumes and premature death, a majority still face a serious health threat. One study reports that as many as 80% of poets have a mood disorder.

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