New research on stalking may be able to identify 'at risk' celebrities

Professor North said that figures suggest that the stalking of public figures may be increasing

New research carried by Professor Adrian North and Dr Lorraine Sheridan, from the School of Life Sciences, may be able to help identify which celebrities may be most at risk of attracting stalkers and also to identify whether the death of a public figure might lead to a rise in overall suicide rates.

Professor Adrian North and Dr Lorraine Sheridan have undertaken research on people's attitudes to their favourite public figures, different types of 'celebrity worship', how these celebrities or public figures behave and how attractive they are perceived to be.

They believe that some of the possible outcomes of applying the results of their research could be to understand and even predict which public figures or celebrities could be most likely to attract 'stalker' fans, and whether people can identify themselves so closely with celebrity figures that there can be an increased risk of suicide in the wider population immediately following the death of a well-known public figure.

Professor North said, "Figures suggest that the stalking of public figures may be increasing. Any guidance in identifying those subject to particular threat would, presumably be of use. There is also interest in whether there is an increase in population suicide rates immediately after the death of a well-known public figure. Earlier research, for example, suggested that that in the month following the suicide of Marilyn Monroe, the USA and UK together saw 363 more suicides than would be expected statistically (equivalent to a 12.04% rise in the USA and a 9.83% rise in the UK).

"We are looking at the possibility that the death of a public figure in some way makes that person more 'appealing' by, for example, inspiring pity for them or romanticising them, and thus inspiring someone with a strong interest in that person to end their own life.

"We are also looking at what might affect how closely anyone might identify with such a figure, including their physical attractiveness and their moral conduct, and indeed how and to what extent that identification can be affected by the death of a public figure. Bringing together all of these areas and then working out how to assess this complex mix of factors involved may help to give us a better, focussed understanding of how they might effect behaviours in the wider population."