The Werther effect of celebrity suicides: Evidence from South Korea

Jeongmin Ha, Hee Seung Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Since 2003 Korea has experienced the highest suicide rate among OECD countries. One of the societal risk factors that triggers suicide is the contagious nature of suicide. This paper empirically examines the effect of celebrity suicide reports on subsequent copycat suicides, using daily suicide data and information of highly publicized suicide stories in Korea from 2005 to 2018. The findings from the Poisson regression model suggest that the number of public suicides soars after media reports on celebrity suicides. On average, the number of suicides in the population increased by 16.4% within just one day after the reports. Further analysis reveals that female and younger subgroups are more likely to be affected by celebrity suicides. Moreover, the public reacts more strongly to suicide incidents of celebrities of the same gender and even imitates the methods of suicide used by celebrities. This paper highlights the significance of careful and responsible media coverage of suicide stories to prevent copycat suicide. For policymakers, it is crucial to implement regulations not only for traditional media but also for new media where younger people can freely access unfiltered information.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0249896
JournalPloS one
Issue number4 April 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Apr

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Ha, Yang. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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