Social phobia and number of social fears, and their association with comorbidity, health-related quality of life and help seeking

A population-based study
  • C. AcarturkEmail author
  • Ron de Graaf
  • A. van Straten
  • M. ten Have
  • P. Cuijpers



Community based data were used to examine the association between social phobia and comorbidity, quality of life and service utilization. In addition, the correlations of the number of social fears with these domains were studied.


Data are from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS) (N = 7,076). Social phobia was assessed according to DSM-III-R with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI); quality of life was assessed according to the Short-Form-36 Health Survey (SF-36).


The 12-month prevalence of social phobia was 4.8%. Being female, young, low educated, a single parent, living alone, not having a paid job and having a somatic disorder are associated with 12-month social phobia. Mean and median ages of onset of social phobia were 19.1 and 16.0 years, respectively, and mean and median duration were 16.8 and 14.0 years, respectively. 66% of respondents with social phobia had at least one comorbid condition. 12-month social phobia was significantly related to lower quality of life and higher service utilization. The mean number of feared social situations was 2.73 out of the 6 assessed. As the number of social fears increases, comorbidity and service utilization increases, and the quality of life decreases.


These findings suggest as the number of feared social situations increases, the burden of social phobia rises. In other words, like comorbidity or decreased quality of life, the number of social fears is also an important indicator of the severity of social phobia. We conclude that from a public health perspective, mental health care givers should pay attention to the number of social fears in order to check the severity of social phobia.

Key words

social phobia number of social fears help-seeking behaviour quality of life comorbidity 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Acarturk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ron de Graaf
    • 2
  • A. van Straten
    • 1
  • M. ten Have
    • 2
  • P. Cuijpers
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.FPP, Dept. Clinical PsychologyVrije Universiteit AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and AddictionUtrechtThe Netherlands

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