Examining the Limits of Social Contagion: Suicide Suggestion in Early Adulthood

Anna S. Mueller, University of Memphis
Seth Abrutyn, University of Memphis
Cynthia Stockton, University of Memphis

Though Durkheimian mechanisms remain central to the sociology of suicide, emphasis on suicide suggestion or the role social learning plays in the suicide process has become increasingly important in explaining many cases of suicide. Using data from Waves III & IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we evaluate whether new suicidal thoughts and attempts among young adults are in part imitative responses to experiencing suicide attempts of friends. Overall, our findings support the idea that suicidal thoughts may spread through friendships, above and beyond young adults’ prior suicidal tendencies or other important controls (such as emotional distress). Specifically, we find that for both young men and women the risk of developing new suicidal thoughts, though not attempts, increases with the suicide attempt of a friend; however, we also find this effect fades with time.

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Presented in Poster Session 4