A study of the impact of thirteen celebrity suicides on subsequent suicide rates in South Korea from 2005 to 2009.
AbstractA number of ecological studies have found a pattern of increasing suicide rates after suicides of several Asian entertainment celebrities. However, the finding may be subject to positive outcome bias where cases with no perceived impact may be routinely excluded. In this study, we deploy interrupted time-series analysis using ARIMA transfer function models to investigate systematically the impact of thirteen celebrity suicides on subsequent suicide rates in South Korea. We find that three out of eleven cases were found to be followed by a significant increase in suicide rate, while controlling for seasonality, secular trends, and unemployment rates. Such significant increases could last for nine weeks. Non-significance cases may be attributable to the small amount of media coverage, the "displacement" effect of preceding case, and the negative connotation of celebrity deaths. We therefore conclude that whether or not the impacts were detected may be largely conditioned by various contextual factors. Current evidence based on ecological studies is insufficient to draw a firm conclusion. Further studies using multiple approaches should be developed.