Sunday, January 20, 2013

Avoiding giving speeches is the most common social fear for Finnish adolescents

Last May I blogged about how avoiding giving speeches is the most common fear for Brazilian university students. In 2007 there was a magazine article by Klaus Ranta titled Age and gender differences in social anxiety symptoms during adolescence: The Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN) as a measure about a large study that used the Finnish version of the same survey tool called the Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN). It appeared in Psychiatry Research, volume 153, pages 261 to 270. You can read an abstract at PubMed, and find the full text of this article in the back of his academic dissertation on Social Phobia among Finnish Adolescents.

There were 5252 students in the study, with ages ranging from 12.8 to 16.9 years (2592 boys and 2650 girls).  3859 were in the 9th grade, with much smaller amounts of 612 in the 7th grade and 641 in the 8th grade (and 140 who didn’t supply grade information). Those students were given the Finnish SPIN, which evaluated 17 symptoms of fear and avoidance on a scale from 0 to 4 where:

0  = Not at all
1  = A little
2 = Somewhat
3 = Very much
4 = Extremely


A bar chart shows the mean results from Table 4 of the article. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version). Avoiding speeches was ranked first (at 1.75) and was significantly larger than the next four items (which clustered together). Those were fear of criticism (at 0.96), avoids being the center of attention (at 0.95), avoids embarrassment (at 0.93), and avoids talking to strangers (at 0.91). Being distressed by sweating was tenth (at 0.65).

The article also reported more detailed results - the percentages of students who answered 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 for each item. It is interesting to compare the sum of the percentages for 3 and 4 (Very much and Extremely), which were 28.4% for avoids speeches, 6.2% for fear of criticism, 7.5% for avoids being the center of attention, 6.6% for avoids embarrassment, and 5.6% for avoids talking to strangers.

Pekka Halonen’s painting of a boy on the shore came from here.

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