A dose-response relationship between imitational suicides and newspaper distribution

Arch Suicide Res. 2004;8(2):137-45. doi: 10.1080/13811110490270985.


Although the Werther effect is well known, up to now a correlation between the differential distribution of particular media reports and subsequent imitational suicides could not be found. This study investigates a celebrity suicide by gun in Austria, which led to extensive reports in the largest Austrian newspaper, whose distribution shows substantial regional differences. The numbers of suicides by firearm in the 3 weeks after the reporting showed an increase over the 3 weeks prior. Regional analysis revealed a strong correlation of suicides by firearm and distribution of the newspaper (log odds ratios; r(9) = .62; p = .04, one-tailed). This dose-response effect explains 40% of the variability of changes. These results underline the influence of media reports on suicidal behavior.