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The Prevalence and Comorbidity of Social Anxiety Disorder Among United States Latinos: A Retrospective Analysis of Data From 2 National Surveys

J Clin Psychiatry 2011;72(8):1096-1105
10.4088/JCP.08m04436

Objective: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is increasingly being recognized as a prevalent, unremitting, and highly comorbid disorder, yet studies focusing on this disorder among US Latinos and immigrant populations are not available. This article evaluates ethnic differences in the prevalence and comorbidity of SAD as well as the clinical and demographic characteristics associated with SAD. Cultural and contextual factors associated with risk of SAD are also examined within the Latino population more specifically.

Method: Data are analyzed from the National Latino and Asian American Study and the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication. Both studies utilized the World Health Organization–Composite International Diagnostic Interview, which estimates the prevalence of lifetime and 12-month psychiatric disorders according to DSM-IV criteria.

Results: Latinos reported a lower lifetime and 12-month SAD prevalence and a later age at onset than US-born non-Latino whites. On the other hand, Latinos diagnosed with 12-month SAD reported higher impairment across home, work, and relationship domains than their non-Latino white counterparts. Relative to non-Latino whites, Latinos who entered the United States after the age of 21 years were less likely to have lifetime SAD comorbidity with drug abuse and dependence and more likely to report lifetime SAD comorbidity with agoraphobia.

Conclusions: The pattern of risk and associated characteristics of SAD varies for Latinos as compared to non-Latino whites. This is reflected by differences between these 2 groups across SAD prevalence, onset, impairment, and comorbidity. The particularly high comorbidity found with agoraphobia among Latinos who arrive in the United States as adults suggests that cultural factors and timing of immigration play a role in the manifestation and course of anxiety disorders. Interventions designed to decrease the levels of impairment associated with SAD are needed as well as efforts to target Latinos suffering from this disorder, specifically.

J Clin Psychiatry 2011;72(8):1096–1105

Submitted: April 21, 2008; accepted December 9, 2010(doi:10.4088/JCP.08m04436).

Corresponding author: Antonio J. Polo, PhD, Department of Psychology, DePaul University, 2219 N Kenmore Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 (apolo@depaul.edu).