Discovery of Connections Between Social Anxiety, Depression, and Suicidal Thoughts in Adolescents

The findings, published in JCPP Advances, highlights the need for early interventions to address society anxiety in young people.

Co-author, Professor Argyris Stringaris (UCL Psychiatry), said: “Our findings suggest addressing social anxiety early could be crucial in preventing the development of suicidal thoughts and other depressive symptoms.”

Lead author, Dr Kenny Chiu from the University of East Anglia, said: “Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) often begins during adolescence, manifesting as intense fear and discomfort in social situations.

“This study provides valuable insights into how social anxiety symptoms may convey risks to developing other important mental health issues if left unaddressed.”

The study builds on a meta-analysis led by Dr Eleanor Leigh (Honorary Associate Professor at UCL Psychology and Language Sciences, and MRC Clinician Scientist Fellow at University of Oxford), Dr Kenny Chiu, and Dr Elizabeth Ballard, which highlighted the lack of longitudinal research looking at the relationship between social anxiety and suicidal thoughts in adolescents.

The study analysed data from the Wellcome Trust Neuroscience in Psychiatry Network (NSPN) 2,400 cohort dataset.

This accelerated longitudinal study recruited more than 2,400 young people aged between 14 and 24 from London and Cambridgeshire areas between 2012 and 2017.

Participants were assessed over a two-year period, once at the outset, another year later, and the final one at the end of two years.

In the new study, researchers found that depressive symptoms one year into the study also partially explained the connection between early social anxiety and later depressive symptoms.

Co-author, Dr Eleanor Leigh said: “Our findings highlight that social anxiety plays a significant role in the persistence of depressive symptoms in adolescents.”

Dr Chiu added: “Such a discovery would not have been possible without the NSPN consortium, which provides robust data accessible to child and adolescent mental health researchers.”