Social anxiety and negative early life events in university students

INTRODUCTION: There is substantial evidence regarding the impact of negative life events during childhood on the aetiology of psychiatric disorders. We examined the association between negative early life events and social anxiety in a sample of 571 Spanish University students. METHODS: In a cross-sectional survey conducted in 2007, we collected data through a semistructured questionnaire of sociodemographic variables, personal and family psychiatric history, and substance abuse. We assessed the five early negative life events: (i) the loss of someone close, (ii) emotional abuse, (iii) physical abuse, (iv) family violence, and (v) sexual abuse. All participants completed the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. RESULTS: Mean (SD) age was 21 (4.5), 75% female, LSAS score was 40 (DP = 22), 14.2% had a psychiatric family history and 50.6% had negative life events during childhood. Linear regression analyses, after controlling for age, gender, and family psychiatric history, showed a positive association between family violence and social score (p = 0.03). None of the remaining stressors produced a significant increase in LSAS score (p > 0.05). CONCLUSION: University students with high levels of social anxiety presented higher prevalence of negative early life events. Thus, childhood family violence could be a risk factor for social anxiety in such a population.

negative early life events; childhood adversities; family violence; social anxiety; Liebowitz social anxiety scale

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