Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Psychiatry and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Decrease in self-esteem mediates the association between symptoms of social phobia and depression in middle adolescence in a sex-specific manner: a 2-year follow-up of a prospective population cohort study

Juha-Matti Väänänen1*, Rasmus Isomaa2, Riittakerttu Kaltiala-Heino3, Sari Fröjd4, Mika Helminen5 and Mauri Marttunen67

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Adolescent Psychiatry, Tampere University Hospital, Box 2000, Tampere 33521, Finland

2 Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland

3 Department of Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Tampere, Medical School, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland

4 School of Health Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

5 Science Center, Pirkanmaa Hospital District and School of Health Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

6 University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

7 Department of Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Mental Health and Substance Use Services, Helsinki University Central Hospital, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Psychiatry 2014, 14:79  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-14-79

Published: 19 March 2014

Abstract

Background

Social phobia and depression are common, highly comorbid disorders in middle adolescence. The mechanism underlying this comorbidity, however, is unclear. Decrease in self-esteem caused by the initial disorder might play a decisive role in the development of the subsequent disorder. The present study aimed to determine whether the association between symptoms of social phobia and depression is mediated by decrease in self-esteem in mid-adolescent girls and boys.

Methods

As a part of the prospective Adolescent Mental Health Cohort (AMCH), subjects of this study were 9th grade pupils (mean age, 15.5) responding to a survey conducted in 2002–2003 (T1) and to a 2-year follow-up survey in 2004–2005 (T2) (N = 2070, mean age 17.6 years, 54.5% girls).

Results

Symptoms of social phobia without symptoms of depression at age 15 and symptoms of depression at age 17 were associated only among boys, and this association was mediated by decrease in self-esteem. Symptoms of depression without symptoms of social phobia at age 15 and symptoms of social phobia at age 17 were associated only among girls, and this association was partially mediated by decrease in self-esteem.

Conclusions

Decrease in self-esteem plays a decisive role in the association between social phobia and depression. Self-esteem should be a key focus in interventions for adolescents suffering from social phobia or depression. Efficient intervention for the first disorder might help to prevent the decline in self-esteem and thus the incidence of the subsequent disorder. These findings are based on a sample of Finnish adolescents and should be confirmed in other jurisdictions or in more ethnically diverse samples.

Keywords:
Social phobia; Depression; Adolescence; Self-esteem; Risk factor; Sex differences; Anxiety