Social phobia in Finnish general adolescent population: prevalence, comorbidity, individual and family correlates, and service use

Depress Anxiety. 2009;26(6):528-36. doi: 10.1002/da.20422.


Background: Few studies have investigated the epidemiology of social phobia (SP) among early to middle adolescents, at the time of suggested mean onset of the disorder. The objective of this study was to investigate the prevalence, comorbidity, individual and familial correlates, and service use associated with SP among Finnish 12-17-year-old adolescents in general population.

Methods: A sample of 784 adolescents was screened with the Social Phobia Inventory, and a sub-sample (n=350) was interviewed with a semi-structured clinical interview to identify SP, sub-clinical SP (SSP), and a range of other axis I DSM-IV disorders. Individual and familial correlates, and service use associated with SP were also inquired.

Results: We found a 12-month prevalence of 3.2% for SP, and 4.6% for SSP. The prevalence rose and the gender ratio shifted to female preponderance as age increased. SP was frequently comorbid with other anxiety disorders (41%) and depressive disorders (41%). Adolescents with SP/SSP were impaired in their academic and global functioning, and reported more parental psychiatric treatment contacts. Two thirds (68%) of adolescents with SP reported having been bullied by peers. Only one fifth of adolescents with non-comorbid SP had been in contact with a mental health professional.

Conclusions: We conclude that adolescent SP is a relatively frequent, undertreated and highly comorbid condition, associated with educational impairment, depression and anxiety in parents, and peer victimization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data
  • Comorbidity
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Family Conflict / psychology*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Peer Group
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Utilization Review / statistics & numerical data