FIRST suggested almost a decade ago, the possibility that Robert Burns was bipolar now appears to be a probability after four years of research by experts at Glasgow University.

According to a paper published in The Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, a study of more than 800 letters and journals have helped the Glasgow academics to analyse the mental state of Burns.

The project also looked beyond Scotland’s national bard’s correspondence to his relationships and day-to-day life in a bid to establish if he had a psychiatric disorder.

The study which started in 2015 has led the researchers to conclude that they have some evidence “to suggest that Burns may have suffered from bipolar disorder, with the Bard’s moods cycling between depression and hypomania”.

The university said: “This might explain the writer’s periods of intense creativity, temperamental personality and unstable love life.”

The research looked at blocks of letters across four separate time frames over nine years from 1786 to 1795, testing the use of the poet’s letters as a source of evidence relating to his mental health.

The first block of letters covered a three-month period centred on December 1793, specifically chosen as it was a known period of melancholia or depression identified by Burns in his writing.

At this time Burns’s letters show him feeling “altogether Novemberish, a damn’d melange of fretfulness and melancholy ... my soul flouncing & fluttering”.

This sample acted as a base to show symptoms of lowered mood, mild depression and melancholia with two of the letters meeting the criteria for clinical depression.

Further analysis will be carried out by the project which will allow the construction of a “life mood map” to chart the variations of Burns’s mood over his lifetime offering a fuller understanding.

Moira Hansen, the principal researcher on the project, said: “Blue devilism was the term Burns used to describe periods of depression which he suffered, periods which affected his life and his work – not something you would automatically expect of someone with a worldwide reputation for knowing how to enjoy himself.”