The Werther effect and assisted suicide

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2003 Summer;33(2):192-200. doi: 10.1521/suli.


In the course of a large epidemiological study in the region of Basle, Switzerland, from 1992 to 1996, a considerable rise in suicides assisted by the right-to-die society EXIT was uncovered after wide press coverage of an assisted double suicide of a prominent couple in that region in March 1995. Further investigation revealed that the rise of assisted suicides for a period of 2 years after the critical event was statistically significant compared to the 2 years previous to the double suicide. This was especially true for women older than 65 years. Hence, the almost enthusiastic kind of reporting about this event was apt to induce imitation suicides or a "Werther-effect."

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Newspapers as Topic*
  • Right to Die*
  • Societies*
  • Suicide, Assisted / psychology
  • Suicide, Assisted / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide, Assisted / trends*
  • Switzerland / epidemiology