The influence of media reporting of the suicide of a celebrity on suicide rates: a population-based study.
Cheng AT., Hawton K., Lee CT., Chen TH.
BACKGROUND: The impact of media reporting of suicides of entertainment celebrities may affect suicide rates due to an imitation effect. We investigated the impact on suicides of the media reporting of the suicide of a male television celebrity. METHODS: All suicides during 2003-2005 in Taiwan (n = 10,945) were included in this study. A Poisson time series autoregression analysis was conducted to examine whether there was an increase in suicides during the 4-week period after extensive media reporting of the celebrity suicide. RESULTS: After controlling for seasonal variation, calendar year, temperature, humidity and unemployment rate, there was a marked increase in the number of suicides during the 4-week period after media reporting (relative risk = 1.17, 95% CI 1.04-1.31). The increase was in men (relative risk = 1.30, 95% CI 1.14-1.50) and for the individuals using the same highly lethal method (hanging) as the TV actor did (relative risk = 1.51, 95% CI 1.25-1.83). However, the age groups in which the increase occurred were younger than the age of the celebrity. CONCLUSIONS: The extensive media reporting of the celebrity suicide was followed by an increase in suicides with a strong implication of a modelling effect. The results provide further support for the need for more restrained reporting of suicides as part of suicide prevention strategies to decrease the imitation effect.