• social phobia;
  • epidemiology;
  • prevalence;
  • anxiety disorders;
  • fear;
  • psychiatry;
  • review

Objective: Social phobia has in recent years been recognized as a considerable public health concern. This paper presents an overview of community studies that have estimated the prevalence of social phobia, its subtypes, and specific social fears in the adult general population. Sociodemographic findings are also summarized.

Method: Forty-three epidemiological studies from 1980 to the present were located in electronic databases and by complementary searches of citations in journal articles and book chapters.

Results: Recent surveys estimate the lifetime prevalence of social phobia at about 7–13% in Western countries. However, prevalence rates vary considerably and are prone to several influencing methodological variables such as the diagnostic criteria, diagnostic threshold, assessment method, number of situational probes, and prevalence period selected by the researcher.

Conclusion: Although there are difficulties in delineating social phobia from subsyndromal social anxiety or shyness, social phobia is even when narrowly defined remarkably common in the general population.