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Estimating the Risk for Suicide Following the Suicide Deaths of 3 Asian Entertainment Celebrities: A Meta-Analytic Approach

J Clin Psychiatry 2009;70(6):869-878
10.4088/JCP.08m04240

Objective: Evidence suggests that there is an increase in the suicide rate following incidents of celebrity suicide in different countries, but there are no data on the overall suicide risk across countries. The duration of increased suicide rates is usually assumed to be on a monthly basis, but the weekly increase remains uncertain. This study aims at estimating the risk for suicide after the suicide deaths of entertainment celebrities in Asia during the first 4 weeks after the celebrity suicides and on a weekly basis.

Method: An ecological, retrospective time-series analysis and a meta-analysis of the suicide deaths in 3 Asian regions: Hong Kong (from 2001 to 2003), Taiwan, and South Korea (both from 2003 to 2005).

Results: The combined risks for suicide were found to be 1.43 (95% CI =1.23 to 1.66), 1.29 (95% CI = 1.12 to 1.50), and 1.25 (95% CI = 1.08 to 1.45) in the first, second, and third week, respectively, after suicides of entertainment celebrities, while adjusting for secular trends, seasonality, economic situation, and temporal autocorrelation. The same-gender and same-method specific increases suggest that as people identify more with the celebrity, their risk for suicide rises. A medium-term rise in suicides up to 24 weeks after the incidents of celebrity suicide is also evident.

Conclusion: This study is the first to estimate risk for suicides following celebrity suicides across 3 Asian regions. The results provide important information for public health policy makers in assessing the elevated risk associated with excessive media coverage of celebrity suicide and developing timely evidence-based interventions.