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Anomie or imitation? The Werther effect of celebrity suicides on suicide rates in 34 OECD countries, 1960-2014.
Soc Sci Med. 2020 02; 246:112755.SS

Abstract

Anomie and imitation have been prominent mechanisms explaining the Werther effect, i.e., the effect of celebrity suicides on a general population's suicide rate. This study presents a new approach to empirically disentangle both mechanisms. Imitation theory suggests that celebrities act as role models, and that the Werther effect is triggered by the status of the celebrity in question. Anomie theory, on the other hand, suggests that the Werther effect is triggered by the unexpectedness of the event. To this end, we empirically compare the effects of celebrity suicides with the effects of celebrities who died unexpectedly from causes other than suicide (accidents, illnesses, alcohol abuse). Based on language and page-link data from 3855 Wikipedia pages of the 495 celebrities who died from suicide between 1960 and 2014, we measure the status a celebrity has in a particular country and calculate the potential country-specific imitation effect of their suicide. In the same manner, we measure the status of celebrities who died unexpectedly from accidents, illnesses, or alcohol abuse to reflect anomie-related effects. We use these measures in an ecological study based on a time-series cross-sectional dataset for 34 OECD countries to assess their effects on a country's overall annual suicide rate. Fixed-effects analyses reveal that the country-specific status of celebrity suicides is associated with significant increases in overall suicide rates, while anomie-related, unexpected celebrity deaths are not associated with the overall suicide rates. The findings remain robust across a number of alternative specifications, such as controlling for further anomic factors at the macro level (divorce or unemployment rate, for instance). We conclude that the results support the imitation mechanism as an essential social explanation for the Werther effect.

Authors+Show Affiliations

University of Wuppertal, Gauβstr. 20, 42119 Wuppertal, Germany. Electronic address: lutter@uni-wuppertal.de.113 Zelfmoordpreventie (suicide prevention), Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Electronic address: info@karlijnroex.net.Humboldt University Berlin, Germany. Electronic address: daria.tisch@hu-berlin.de.

Pub Type(s)

Journal Article

Language

eng

PubMed ID

31884238

Citation

Lutter, Mark, et al. "Anomie or Imitation? the Werther Effect of Celebrity Suicides On Suicide Rates in 34 OECD Countries, 1960-2014." Social Science & Medicine (1982), vol. 246, 2020, p. 112755.
Lutter M, Roex KLA, Tisch D. Anomie or imitation? The Werther effect of celebrity suicides on suicide rates in 34 OECD countries, 1960-2014. Soc Sci Med. 2020;246:112755.
Lutter, M., Roex, K. L. A., & Tisch, D. (2020). Anomie or imitation? The Werther effect of celebrity suicides on suicide rates in 34 OECD countries, 1960-2014. Social Science & Medicine (1982), 246, 112755. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112755
Lutter M, Roex KLA, Tisch D. Anomie or Imitation? the Werther Effect of Celebrity Suicides On Suicide Rates in 34 OECD Countries, 1960-2014. Soc Sci Med. 2020;246:112755. PubMed PMID: 31884238.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - Anomie or imitation? The Werther effect of celebrity suicides on suicide rates in 34 OECD countries, 1960-2014. AU - Lutter,Mark, AU - Roex,Karlijn L A, AU - Tisch,Daria, Y1 - 2019/12/20/ PY - 2018/04/20/received PY - 2019/12/13/revised PY - 2019/12/17/accepted PY - 2019/12/31/pubmed PY - 2019/12/31/medline PY - 2019/12/30/entrez KW - Anomie KW - Celebrity suicides KW - Imitation KW - OECD KW - Status KW - Suicide KW - Werther effect KW - Wikipedia SP - 112755 EP - 112755 JF - Social science & medicine (1982) JO - Soc Sci Med VL - 246 N2 - Anomie and imitation have been prominent mechanisms explaining the Werther effect, i.e., the effect of celebrity suicides on a general population's suicide rate. This study presents a new approach to empirically disentangle both mechanisms. Imitation theory suggests that celebrities act as role models, and that the Werther effect is triggered by the status of the celebrity in question. Anomie theory, on the other hand, suggests that the Werther effect is triggered by the unexpectedness of the event. To this end, we empirically compare the effects of celebrity suicides with the effects of celebrities who died unexpectedly from causes other than suicide (accidents, illnesses, alcohol abuse). Based on language and page-link data from 3855 Wikipedia pages of the 495 celebrities who died from suicide between 1960 and 2014, we measure the status a celebrity has in a particular country and calculate the potential country-specific imitation effect of their suicide. In the same manner, we measure the status of celebrities who died unexpectedly from accidents, illnesses, or alcohol abuse to reflect anomie-related effects. We use these measures in an ecological study based on a time-series cross-sectional dataset for 34 OECD countries to assess their effects on a country's overall annual suicide rate. Fixed-effects analyses reveal that the country-specific status of celebrity suicides is associated with significant increases in overall suicide rates, while anomie-related, unexpected celebrity deaths are not associated with the overall suicide rates. The findings remain robust across a number of alternative specifications, such as controlling for further anomic factors at the macro level (divorce or unemployment rate, for instance). We conclude that the results support the imitation mechanism as an essential social explanation for the Werther effect. SN - 1873-5347 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/31884238/Anomie_or_imitation_The_Werther_effect_of_celebrity_suicides_on_suicide_rates_in_34_OECD_countries,_1960-2014 L2 - https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0277-9536(19)30750-6 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -
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