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BACKGROUND: Social anxiety disorder is one of the most persistent and common anxiety disorders. Individually delivered psychological therapies are the most effective treatment options for adults with social anxiety disorder, but they are associated with high intervention costs. Therefore, the objective of this study was to assess the relative cost effectiveness of a variety of psychological and pharmacological interventions for adults with social anxiety disorder. METHODS: A decision-analytic model was constructed to compare costs and quality adjusted life years (QALYs) of 28 interventions for social anxiety disorder from the perspective of the British National Health Service and personal social services. Efficacy data were derived from a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Other model input parameters were based on published literature and national sources, supplemented by expert opinion. RESULTS: Individual cognitive therapy was the most cost-effective intervention for adults with social anxiety disorder, followed by generic individual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), phenelzine and book-based self-help without support. Other drugs, group-based psychological interventions and other individually delivered psychological interventions were less cost-effective. Results were influenced by limited evidence suggesting superiority of psychological interventions over drugs in retaining long-term effects. The analysis did not take into account side effects of drugs. CONCLUSION: Various forms of individually delivered CBT appear to be the most cost-effective options for the treatment of adults with social anxiety disorder. Consideration of side effects of drugs would only strengthen this conclusion, as it would improve even further the cost effectiveness of individually delivered CBT relative to phenelzine, which was the next most cost-effective option, due to the serious side effects associated with phenelzine. Further research needs to determine more accurately the long-term comparative benefits and harms of psychological and pharmacological interventions for social anxiety disorder and establish their relative cost effectiveness with greater certainty.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adult, Anxiety Disorders, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Female, Humans, Male, Psychotherapy, Quality-Adjusted Life Years, Treatment Outcome