The Role of Death Anxiety and Self-Esteem in Suicide Attitudes

Athena Kheibari, Julie Cerel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The persistent stigmatization of suicide calls for a careful examination of the thought processes involved in perceptions of suicide. Hence, the present study is the first to apply terror management theory (TMT) and use experimental methods to examine whether reminders of death lead to increased stigma towards suicide and whether self-esteem moderates these stigmatized reactions. Consistent with the predicted effect of the death anxiety and self-esteem hypothesis, findings revealed that, for respondents with low self-esteem, thinking about their own death led to more stigma, less willingness to intervene, and allocated less money to a suicide prevention organization as compared to those who did not think about death. Findings from this study could have important implications for how we understand the psychological underpinnings of stigma and the role of death anxiety in hostile attitudes and decreased altruism – especially for mental health professionals working with individuals affected by suicide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1069-1088
Number of pages20
JournalOmega (United States)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • death anxiety
  • self-esteem
  • stigma
  • suicide attitudes
  • terror management theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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