Suicide in the media: a quantitative review of studies based on non-fictional stories

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2005 Apr;35(2):121-33. doi: 10.1521/suli.35.2.121.62877.

Abstract

Research on the effect of suicide stories in the media on suicide in the real world has been marked by much debate and inconsistent findings. Recent narrative reviews have suggested that research based on nonfictional models is more apt to uncover imitative effects than research based on fictional models. There is, however, substantial variation in media effects within the research restricted to nonfictional accounts of suicide. The present analysis provides some explanations of the variation in findings in the work on nonfictional media. Logistic regression techniques applied to 419 findings from 55 studies determined that: (1) studies measuring the presence of either an entertainment or political celebrity were 5.27 times more likely to find a copycat effect, (2) studies focusing on stories that stressed negative definitions of suicide were 99% less likely to report a copycat effect, (3) research based on television stories (which receive less coverage than print stories) were 79% less likely to find a copycat effect, and (4) studies focusing on female suicide were 4.89 times more likely to report a copycat effect than other studies. The full logistic regression model correctly classified 77.3% of the findings from the 55 studies. Methodological differences among studies are associated with discrepancies in their results.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Journalism
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Public Opinion
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide / prevention & control
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States