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Although specific phobia is one of the most prevalent lifetime anxiety disorders, little is known about the particular risk factors related to its development. The underlying goal of this study was to analyse the risk factors associated with worrying about specific phobias (SP) in a representative sample of community dwelling adults. The sample was composed of 8461 participants (mean age 47.68 years, range 18-85, 54.60% female), from the Australian National Mental Health Survey. A total of 188 participants (2.22%) reported worrying about SPs. Multivariate logistic regression analysis indicated that female sex (odds ratio (OR) = 1.98, p < 0.0001) and a comorbid diagnosis of lifetime major depression disorder (OR = 2.80, p < 0.0001) were the factors most strongly associated with worrying about SPs. Having experienced traumatic experiences involving significant others (OR = 1.18, p = 0.02), the number of chronic diseases (OR = 1.21, p < 0.01), and a comorbid diagnosis of substance use (OR = 2.80, p = 0.02) were also associated. Our results are in line with previous studies focusing on other anxiety disorders. We provide further evidence that substance dependence appears to serve as a unique risk factor for the subsequent onset of SP. Further empirical and clinical implications are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of psychiatric research

Publication Date





67 - 72


School of Psychology, ISMAI University Institute of Maia, Portugal; School of Health of Porto Polytechnic, Psychosocial Rehabilitation Lab, Center for Rehabilitation Research, Porto, Portugal; Department of Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.