Writing is one of the top 10 professions in which people are most likely to suffer from depression, with men particularly at risk from the illness, according to US website health.com. Creative people may also have higher rates of mood disorders; about 9% reported an episode of major depression in the previous year.
Irregular pay and isolation contribute to the propensity for writers to succumb to depression, says the site, with nearly 7% of male artists and writers likely to suffer a major episode of the illness.
Simon Brett, who has acknowledged his own struggles with depression agrees.
'You spend long hours sitting on your own,' he said. 'Writing can be wonderful therapy, but you are digging into yourself, and if you are writing fiction and creating characters, a certain amount of self-examination and self-doubt is inevitable.' Many writers are also introverted, quiet people, and find it stressful to have their work assessed publicly, Brett added, saying: 'Now there are reviews on Amazon, for example, that happens even more.'
And like everyone else, writers are subject to the current economic woes. 'It has always been an insecure profession, and now advances are spiralling downwards and a lot of midlist authors have been dropped by their publishers,' said Brett.
There are two points in the novel-writing cycle when authors are particularly vulnerable, he believes. 'Almost every writer I know goes through the same reaction after a novel is finished – there are 24 hours of euphoria and then all the negative thoughts you have shut out while finishing it come out, and either you get drunk or depressed or get the flu.
'The other point is two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through a novel, when almost all writers get what I call the 'three-quarters sag', when the only thing you like less about what you've written so far is the ideas you have for finishing the book. My books are written quite quickly, so it only lasts a week or two, but for people who spend two years writing, it can take months.'