Social Phobia and Seniors: What Lies Ahead for One of the Fastest Growing Groups in Canada

    TORONTO, June 12 /CNW/ - June is seniors' month in Ontario, and older
adults are being encouraged to live actively and share their wisdom and
experience with others. But the debilitating effects of social phobia, a
common psychiatric disorder in the elderly, keep many people away from social
situations because of fear or embarrassment. Though older people are less
likely to experience symptoms of social phobia, those who continue to suffer
later in life may experience more severe social isolation as they also deal
with the physical difficulties of aging.
    In his study Epidemiology of Social Phobia in Later Life, the Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health's (CAMH) Dr. John Cairney used data from
Statistics Canada's 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health and
Well-being to examine the prevalence and nature of social phobia in seniors.
Published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry this study filled a
significant information gap by showing:

    -  1.3% of respondents aged 55 and older reported symptoms of social
       phobia during the twelve months prior to the survey. Concurrent mood
       and anxiety disorders were also common in this group, with 31%
       experiencing depression and 12% experiencing panic disorder.
    -  However, the above rate declined with age, from almost 2% among 55-64
       year old adults, to 1% at 65-74 years of age and to 0.5% for those
       ages 75 and older.
    -  4.9% of respondents aged 55 and older reported experiencing social
       phobia during their lifetime.

    Interestingly, the profile of older adults with social phobia is very
different than that of the general population. "In the general population,
social phobia is more common among woman than men, but among older people it
is equally common in both sexes. Similarly, where educational attainment is a
risk factor for social phobia in the general population, it does not appear to
be among older adults according to this study," said Dr. Cairney.
    From a clinical perspective, the high rates of concurrent psychiatric
disorders suggests that doctors should screen for social phobia when
individuals present with illnesses like depression and anxiety disorders.
Equally important, those with social phobia should be checked for co-occurring
mental illnesses.
    Knowing how many older people have conditions like social phobia, and
whether certain groups are at especially high risk, can help identify services
needs and gives physicians tools to recognize symptoms. Evidence on
differences in social phobia among demographic groups can also be useful to
researchers working to understand the underlying causes of the disorder, since
it suggests that these differences may be related to certain psychological,
social, or biological factors that also differ among these groups.

    The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is one of the leading
addiction and mental health organizations in North America and Canada's
largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital. CAMH is a Pan American
Health Organization and World Health Organization Collaborating Centre, and is
fully affiliated with the University of Toronto. CAMH combines clinical care,
research, policy, education and health promotion to transform the lives of
people impacted by mental health and addiction issues.

For further information:

For further information: or to schedule interviews please contact
Michael Torres, Media Relations, CAMH at (416) 595-6015

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