Can Celebrity Suicides Inspire Copycat Deaths?

In Japan, it's known as "Yukiko Syndrome."

Following the suicide of Japanese pop singer Yukiko Okada in 1986, there was a sharp rise in copycat suicides.    Though the suicide rate quickly returned to normal, "Yukiko syndrome" quickly took on a life of its own and the prospect of further copycat deaths was raised whenever a high-profile suicide occurred.    And similar cases of copycat suicides following a celebrity death can be found around the world.    

Beginning in 1774 when the publication of Johann Goethe's book, The Sorrows of Young Werther, triggered a rash of suicides by impressionable people imitating the book's hero ,  copycat suicides have been a recurring problem.    Dubbed the "Werther effect" after Goethe's book, the role that mass media can play in spreading suicide contagion is still not well-understood.   Despite numerous research studies showing a rise in average suicide rates and emergency room admissions for attempted suicide following a celebrity death, nobody is quite sure why this happens.   

To read further, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.



Related Stories

  • The Internet Suicide Minefield
  • Disturbing Revelations about British Soccer Players Show Dementia Risks Being Downplayed
  • Does Technology Make Bullying Easier?


The information provided on the is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

PsyWeb Poll

Are you currently taking or have you ever been prescribed anti-depressants?
Total votes: 3979