We present a preliminary report on cross-national rates, age at onset, comorbidity, suicide attempts and symptom profiles of social phobia. These data are based on epidemiologic community surveys using similar methods from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Korea. The lifetime rate of social phobia (cases per 100 persons) varies by country, from 2.6 in the United States to 0.5 in Korea. Rates are higher in females than in males in all countries. The age of onset for any phobia is mid-teens to early twenties, and social phobia usually has its first onset before other psychiatric disorders. Only a third or fewer cases of social phobia are uncomplicated by another psychiatric disorder. The presence of social phobia increases the risk of suicide attempts in persons with any other psychiatric disorder. Symptom profiles vary by country. Our data indicate consistent patterns but different cultural expressions of social phobia in the countries studied. The early age of onset of social phobia followed subsequently by another psychiatric disorder raises the possibility that early treatment of social phobia could prevent the onset of other psychiatric disorders.
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