The Werther effect -- did it really happen?

Many sources report that Goethe’s book The Sorrows of Young Werther “sparked a wave of emulative suicides accross Europe” (Cialdini, Influence, 1984). I haven’t been able to find real documentation of that, though. Were there really that many? How many were there?

At least that’s what I learned in school when we were reading “die Leiden des jungen Werther.” Scores of young men would dress like Werther, mope like him, keep a diary like him, and at least a few carried the thing to its logical conclusion and blew their brains out. . . .

Hope this helps ,


Just wish I could find a figure, though. Even an estimate of the number of suicides attributed to the Werther effect.

Seeber, Edward. “Literature and the Question of Suicide: Werther in France,” in Goethe Bicentennial Studies (Bloomington, 1950)

From a bibliography on suicide. You might be able to find it in a library somewhere.