How Many People Are Exposed to Suicide? Not Six

Julie Cerel, Margaret M. Brown, Myfanwy Maple, Michael Singleton, Judy van de Venne, Melinda Moore, Chris Flaherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

181 Scopus citations


It has long been stated that six people are left behind following every suicide. Despite a lack of empirical evidence, this has been extensively cited for over 30 years. Using data from a random-digit dial survey, a more accurate number of people exposed to each suicide is calculated. A sample of 1,736 adults included 812 lifetime suicide-exposed respondents who reported age and number of exposures. Each suicide resulted in 135 people exposed (knew the person). Each suicide affects a large circle of people, who may be in need of clinician services or support following exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-534
Number of pages6
JournalSuicide and Life-Threatening Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was in part supported by the Military Suicide Research Consortium (MSRC), an effort supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs under Award Nos. W81XWH-10-2-0178 & W81XWH-10-2-0181. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the MSRC or the Department of Defense.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The American Association of Suicidology

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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