Suicide and media reporting: a longitudinal and spatial analysis

  • Albert C. Yang
  • Shih-Jen Tsai
  • Cheng-Hung Yang
  • Ben-Chang Shia
  • Jong-Ling Fuh
  • Shuu-Jiun Wang
  • Chung-Kang Peng
  • Norden E. Huang
Original Paper



The impact of media reporting on copycat suicides has been well established in various cases of celebrity suicide. However, knowledge is limited about the spatial and temporal relationship between suicide death and media reporting over a long period of time. This study investigated the association of suicide deaths with suicide news in longitudinal and spatial dimensions.


All suicides during 2003–2010 (n = 31,364) were included. Suicide news in the study period was retrieved from Google News, and included all available news media in Taiwan. Empirical mode decomposition was used to identify the main intrinsic oscillation, reflecting both major and minor suicide events, and time-dependent intrinsic correlation was used to quantify the temporal correlation between suicide deaths and suicide news.


The media reporting of suicide was synchronized with increased suicide deaths during major suicide events such as celebrity death, and slightly lagged behind the suicide deaths for 1 month in other periods without notable celebrity deaths. The means of suicide reported in the media diversely affected the suicide models. Reports of charcoal burning suicide exhibited an exclusive copycat effect on actual charcoal burning deaths, whereas media reports of jumping had a wide association with various suicide models. Media reports of suicide had a higher association with suicide deaths in urban than in rural areas.


This report suggested that a delayed effect of copycat suicide may exist in media reports of minor suicide events. The competitive reporting of minor suicide events must be avoided and addressed by media professionals.


Completed suicide Media Time series analysis Empirical mode decomposition Time-dependent intrinsic correlation 



This work was supported by the Center for Dynamical Biomarkers and Translational Medicine, National Central University, Taiwan (National Science Council, NSC 100-2911-I-008-001). We thank the Collaboration Center of Health Information Application, Department of Health, Executive Yuan, Taiwan for providing suicide data.

Conflict of interest

None declared.

Ethical standard

The study and material was approved and provided anonymously by the Collaboration Center of Health Information Application, Department of Health, Executive Yuan, Taiwan. Application of institution review board approval was not required in released anonymous data from the Department of Health, Taiwan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Albert C. Yang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Shih-Jen Tsai
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cheng-Hung Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ben-Chang Shia
    • 4
  • Jong-Ling Fuh
    • 5
  • Shuu-Jiun Wang
    • 5
  • Chung-Kang Peng
    • 6
  • Norden E. Huang
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryTaipei Veterans General HospitalTaipeiRepublic of China
  2. 2.Division of Psychiatry, School of MedicineNational Yang-Ming UniversityTaipeiRepublic of China
  3. 3.Center for Dynamical Biomarkers and Translational MedicineNational Central UniversityChungliRepublic of China
  4. 4.Department of Statistics and Information ScienceFu Jen Catholic UniversityTaipeiRepublic of China
  5. 5.Department of Neurology, Neurological InstituteTaipei Veterans General HospitalTaipeiRepublic of China
  6. 6.Margret and H. A. Rey Institute for Nonlinear Dynamics in MedicineBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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