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H Yi, J Hwang, HJ Bae and N Kim
Abstract
Media reports of a celebrity’s suicide may be followed by copycat suicides, and the impact may vary in different age and sex subgroups. We proposed a quantitative framework to assess the vulnerability of age and sex subgroups to copycat suicide and used this method to investigate copycat suicides in relation to the suicides of 10 celebrities in South Korea from 1993 to 2013. By applying a detrending model to control for annual and seasonal fluctuations, we estimated the expected number of suicides within a copycat suicide period. The copycat effect was assessed in two ways: the magnitude of copycat suicide by dividing the observed by the expected number of suicides, and the mortality rate by subtracting the expected from the observed number of suicides. Females aged 20-29 years were the most vulnerable subgroup according to both the magnitude of the copycat effect (2.31-fold increase over baseline) and the mortality rate from copycat suicide (22.7-increase). Males aged 50-59 years were the second most vulnerable subgroup according to the copycat suicide mortality rate (20.5- increase). We hope that the proposed quantitative framework will be used to identify vulnerable subgroups to copycat effect, thereby helping devise strategies for prevention.
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