Celebrity suicides often lead to a massive increase in suicide-related searches on the Internet, which in turn appear to spur more people to kill themselves.
Based on analysis of searches on Google Trends for suicide-related terms between 2005 and 2010 and comparison with the suicide rate in Korea, Song Tae-min of the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs said celebrity suicides cause related word searches to rise up to 2.5 times and suicides up to 1.7 times.
Google Trends is a service that shows how often a particular search word is entered relative to the total search volume in a certain period.
According to Song, 697 people killed themselves in January 2005 but between late February that year, when actress Lee Eun-ju committed suicide, and March, that rose to 1,022, with related word searches also increasing about 2.5 times during the period.
After the actress Choi Jin-sil killed herself in October 2008, 1,793 people killed themselves, up 65.5 percent from 1,083 the previous month, and suicide-related searches rose 1.8 times.
When Choi Jin-young, Choi's younger brother, took his own life in March 2010, suicides and relevant searches increased 42.7 percent and 11.5 percent.
"Suicide attempts are often caused by psychological problems, including depression, but news reports about celebrity suicides also have some influence," Song said.