Screening for social anxiety disorder in first year university students: a pilot study
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterised by fear of negative evaluation.1 Sufferers become anxious when they perceive themselves as the centre of attention, finding it difficult to speak in public, attend social events and deal with authority figures. It is common, with an annual prevalence of 2.7% in Australia, but elsewhere in the western world it is higher (3–4%) and has a lifetime incidence of 7–13%. It has significant impact on education and employment, with lower levels of educational achievement and lower incomes.There are several screening tests for social anxiety disorder. The 24 question Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale is reliable, but requires a significant verbal introduction.5,6 The Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents is a 13 question self report scale but has no documented cut-scores.7 The abbreviated version of the Social Phobia Inventory (Mini-SPIN) needs only three questions, making it suitable for clinical practice.8 Each response can range 0–4 (from 'not at all' to 'extremely'). A cut-score of 6 (out of a possible 12) is used to indicate social anxiety disorder (although it cannot differentiate different types) with a sensitivity of 88.7% and specificity of 90.0%. These were derived in only one study of adults (where the positive predictive was 52.5%, and negative predictive value 98.5%), so validation has not been adequately established. I wondered if it was feasible to screen for social anxiety disorder among adolescents, and settled on first year university students as a convenient sample.