Researchers say selfie-related deaths are a growing ‘public health problem’

Selfie-related deaths are a new public health issue, according to researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

According to MedPage Today, the researchers reached this conclusion after analyzing “published literature and news reports about selfie-related deaths and injuries from 2011 onwards.”

And according to ABC News (Australia), the researchers specifically “found that tourists were most at risk, with the most common cause of death being falling from cliffs or waterfalls while attempting to take a selfie.”

The researchers also “found that prior to their deaths, people often climbed over barriers and fenced off areas to reach the perfect selfie spot.”

Based on these findings, lead researcher Sam Cornell is convinced that this issue should be designated a public health problem/crisis.

“It’s a problem that isn’t going anywhere. People are more and more online, children are growing up with social media, and smartphones from a very early age now,”  he told ABC News.

“In the age of social media, people do want to go to beautiful places that photograph well because it looks great on their social media profiles, whether on TikTok or Instagram,” he added.

He’s not alone in feeling this way.

“Selfie-related mortality is a public health concern as these deaths affect people of all ages around the world, have been increasing, and could be prevented through better public education and awareness,” Nathalie Auger, a physician epidemiologist who’s conducted similar research, told MedPage Today.

She added that her own research has demonstrated that young people are especially prone to taking dangerous selfies and may not be aware of the risks they’re taking.

According to MedPage, the examples proving this go on for days.

“Just last month, The Times of India reported that a 23-year-old woman died after falling 350 feet while taking a selfie at Needle Hole Point near Mahabaleshwar, India,” the site notes.

“In September, a 22-year-old tourist in Australia fell 164 feet off a cliff opens in a new tab or window while taking a selfie with friends at the Pinnacles Lookout at Cape Woolamai on Philip Island in Victoria, sustaining major injuries. Earlier this a year, a 27-year-old man taking a selfie with elephants in India was trampled to death, according to Newsweek.”

That said, Auger suspects self-related deaths and injuries are being undercounted and that this may be preventing people from being more aware of the risks.

But why are people even taking such risks anyway?

“Elias Aboujaoude, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford Medicine in California, said that in the age of social media, likes, comments, and engagement are tied to users’ self-worth. In trying to get that validation, people ‘are forced to go to extremes,'” according to MedPage.

“What is often lost in the discussion is the reason for which people will go to such extremes for that ultimate selfie,” he explained in his own words. “Social media encourages self-promotion and narcissistic tendencies, and the overuse of selfies can be seen as a manifestation of that.”

What exactly do the researchers propose be done to solve this problem? Change the way news networks cover selfie deaths, among other things.

“The researchers recommended that future news coverage emphasize prevention rather than victim-blaming, and that social media users should be exposed to more robust safety messaging,” MedPage notes.

“In addition, previous research had recommended ‘no selfie zones,’ as well as physical barriers, signage, and information on social media apps, to help curb selfie-related deaths,” according to the site.

Aboujaoude appears to support such safety measures but has doubts about their effectiveness.

“What we really need is much more awareness of the toxic effects of social media on personality and behavior. That’s where the real public health risk resides,” he said.

Cornell seems to at least somewhat agree.

Speaking with Fox News, he said that taking dangerous selfies doesn’t just put one at physical risk but also introduces the “unhealthy psychological aspects of taking a pause from actually living life to take a freeze-frame of it.”

“This involves an emotional cost as well, and is an unhealthy extension of our celebrity culture and social media pressures,” he explained.

Vivek Saxena


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