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Social anxiety in medical students: Implications for communication skills teaching

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Social anxiety manifests as a fear of social situations, including being observed by others (Bruce & Saeed 1999). Communication skills workshops frequently involve student performance being observed by others, therefore social anxiety may impact upon attitudes to this style of teaching.

Aims: To determine the levels of social anxiety amongst medical undergraduates and investigate whether this influenced attitudes towards communication skills teaching.

Methods: 247 medical students (three year groups, 60% female) from the University of St Andrews completed a questionnaire survey measuring levels of social anxiety and attitudes to communication skills teaching (Mattick & Clarke 1998; Rees et al. 2002).

Results: Average social anxiety scores in the students were lower (t-tests, P < 0.001) than other groups measured by Mattick & Clarke ( 1998). A minority (8%) of medical undergraduates however experienced high levels of social anxiety. High social anxiety scores correlated with negative attitudes to communication skills teaching, especially among female students (r = 0.359, P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: Social anxiety contributes to a negative attitude towards communication skills teaching and may impact on participation in group workshops. This information could influence the methods tutors use for the provision of feedback in such workshops.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-654
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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