BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of self-reported social phobia in a community sample of Swedish adolescents in junior high school, at the risk-period for developing social phobia. Of particular interest was to investigate gender differences in prevalence across ages. Prevalence of sub-threshold social phobia was also studied. METHODS: Students in grades 6-8 (aged 12-14) from seventeen schools in five Swedish municipalities were screened by means of a self-report questionnaire, the social phobia screening questionnaire-for children (SPSQ-C). RESULTS: Data from a sample of 2,128 students were analysed and showed a point-prevalence rate of 4.4% (95%CI 3.5-5.2) and a significant gender difference (6.6% girls vs. 1.8% boys, P < 0.001). No significant differences in prevalence of probable cases emerged across the ages. At sub-threshold level, marked social fear of at least one social situation was reported by 13.8% of the total group. "Speaking in front of class" and "calling someone unfamiliar on the phone" were the most feared social situations. In the social phobia group, 91.4% reported impairment in the school-domain due to their social fear. CONCLUSION: Social phobia is a common psychiatric condition in Swedish adolescents, especially in girls. As impairment in the school-domain is reported to a high degree, professionals and teachers need to recognize social phobia in adolescents so that help in overcoming the difficulties can be offered.
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