Modelling and suicide: a test of the Werther effect

Br J Soc Psychol. 1992 Dec;31 ( Pt 4):295-306. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8309.1992.tb00974.x.

Abstract

The present study investigates whether news about suicides of prominent persons evokes an imitative effect. To this end, daily overall suicide frequencies of a German federal state, Baden-Württemberg, were examined for the years 1968 to 1980 and were related to prominent suicides that were publicized in major newspapers. Data were analysed quasi-experimentally and by means of a time series regression analysis. These methods yielded significant or marginally significant increases, respectively, for the week following the news. Alternative social psychological explanations were examined, and possible statistical artifacts were taken into account. The results are on the whole consistent with the assumption of an imitative effect.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Incidence
  • Models, Statistical
  • Newspapers as Topic*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Identification*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data