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Imitative Suicides: A National Study of the Effects of Television News Stories

Kenneth A. Bollen and David P. Phillips
American Sociological Review
Vol. 47, No. 6 (Dec., 1982), pp. 802-809
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095217
Page Count: 8
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Imitative Suicides: A National Study of the Effects of Television News Stories
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Abstract

A 1974 ASR paper by Phillips showed that suicides increase in the month of highly publicized suicide stories. Several subsequent papers have built on this finding and have suggested that publicized suicide stories trigger increases in covert suicides disguised as motor vehicle or airplane accidents. If the original ASR findings cannot be replicated, then doubt is cast on all these studies. In this paper we demonstrate that U.S. daily suicides increase significantly after highly publicized suicide stories appear on television evening news programs. We provide the first evidence that the increase in suicides occurs only after and not before the suicide story. In addition, we provide the first systematic study of the length of time a suicide story affects suicides; the effect probably does not extend beyond ten days. These findings support and extend the literature on imitative suicides.

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