The Impact of Widely Publicized Suicides on Search Trends: Using Google Trends to Test the Werther and Papageno Effects

John F. Gunn, Sara Goldstein, David Lester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The objective of this study was to examine the impact of widely publicized suicides on the Werther and Papageno Effects using internet search trends. A list of widely publicized suicides from 2010 through 2018 was compiled along with dates of death for each of these individuals. Google.com/trends data were then collected for searches for “how to suicide” and “suicide prevention” for 14 days prior to a widely publicized suicide/14 days after a widely publicized suicide and 7 days prior to a widely publicized suicide/7 days after a widely publicized suicide. Comparisons were then made between these time periods for “how to suicide” and “suicide prevention.” Some celebrities, such as Robin Williams (2014) and Aaron Hernandez (2017) were associated with increased searches. However, for many there was no increase in search trends. Limited support was found for the impact of widely publicized suicides on internet search trends with one case supporting a Werther Effect and one case supporting a Papageno Effect. The finding that only some celebrities were associated with increased searches may be a byproduct of the impact of celebrity status on these effects, with more prominent celebrities having the greatest impact.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArchives of Suicide Research
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2018

    Fingerprint

Keywords

  • Google.com/trends
  • Papageno Effect
  • Wether Effect
  • contagion

Cite this