Copycat effects after media reports on suicide: a population-based ecologic study

Soc Sci Med. 2009 Oct;69(7):1085-90. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.07.041. Epub 2009 Aug 13.


This study aimed to investigate whether the risk of increased suicide occurrence after reports on suicide is associated with the social characteristics of the reported suicides and whether this varies with similarity between the reported suicides and suicides in the population. We collected reports on all 179 individual suicides named in the 13 largest Austrian nationwide newspapers from 1996 to 2006. Information on social status and sociodemographic characteristics of the reported suicides, on certainty of labelling the death as a suicide, and on the suicide methods applied were extracted from the articles. We conducted logistic regression analyses, with the increase of post-report suicides within 28 days after the reports as dependent variable. In model 1, the increase of suicides that matched the reported individual suicide with regard to age group, sex and suicide method was used as outcome variable. In model 2, the increase of suicides that were different from the reported suicide with regard to these characteristics was the outcome. In model 3, the post-report increase of total suicides was the dependent variable. Celebrity status of the reported suicide, age of the reported suicide between 30 and 64 years, and definitive labelling as a suicide were associated with an increased risk of a post-report increase of similar suicides; criminality (i.e. the individual was reported as suspected or convicted of crime) of the reported suicide was associated with a lower risk of a post-report increase. In dissimilar suicides, none of the variables was associated with a post-report increase of suicides. Celebrity status of the reported suicide was the only predictor of a post-report increase of total suicides. The findings support the hypothesis that social variables of reported suicides impact the risk of post-report copycat behaviour. Evidence of copycat effects seemed to be strongest in suicides that were similar to the respective model with regard to age group, sex, and suicide method.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Austria
  • Cause of Death
  • Crime
  • Famous Persons
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Newspapers as Topic*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult