Social Anxiety and Stress in Singapore

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Table of Contents

  • Statement of Problem
  • Purpose of the Study
  • Hypothesis
  • Definition of Terms
  • Literature Review

Singapore is a small country. However, technological development and the economy have been growing very fast. Therefore, it makes this country become more and more competitive. According to the Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum (2018), Singapore is the second-most economic competitive country out of 140 countries. Due to this situation, people are more likely to compare, hence it forms a social competition.

For most people, there is something inexplicably compelling about the nature of competition. Economists tell us that competition is an essential force in maintaining productive and efficient markets (Sander, 2015). The competition also plays a major role in domestic politics, foreign relation, and most sports. Even the human quest for love is not free of competition (Christiansen, & Loeschcke, 1990). A “competition,' by its very nature, is what psychologists call an “extrinsic incentive'. “Extrinsic” means that the motivation to adopt a behavior or decision is sourced externally rather than internally (Sander, 2015).

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Stress is a major factor that affects our emotions, cognition, and behavior. Competitive self-confidence is a sureness of feeling not well founded in one’s ability. Social anxiety can be influenced by several factors such as past experience and environment, negative beliefs, genetics, neurology, physical triggers, and technology (Joseph, 2017). Nowadays, people use technology to converse more than through face-to-face meetings. According to Drago, (2015), 74% of students using a cell phone when they spent time with their family and friends. Thus, when they need to meet up someone in real life, they will feel uncomfortable, nervous, and scared.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. It is defined as a debilitating and persistent fear of social situations involving exposure to unfamiliar people or possible scrutiny by others (Brook, & Schmidt, 2008). Social anxiety can profoundly affect someone’s ability to socialize and communicate with other people. According to some research, social anxiety affects the performance at work for some people, thus, individuals will resign or give up their job due to this anxiety. Social anxiety is different from normal shyness, which is not associated with disability and interference of life.

Statement of Problem

Nowadays, most people living in Singapore are stressed. According to the research from Willis Towers Watson’s earlier 2017, Benefits Trends Survey found that almost half (44%) of local employers identified stress as the number one health issue. 60% of Singaporean staff experience above the average stress level and it may be related to the social anxiety levels (Ang, 2018). Therefore, stress may have a positive correlation with social anxiety.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to find out if stress will positively correlate with social anxiety levels and how does the social comparison affect social anxiety levels. The findings will provide insight on how to control or help people to relieve stress.


This study has two hypotheses. The first hypothesis is that the stress levels are positively correlated to social anxiety levels. Meaning, when a person has high levels of stress, he or she is likely to have high levels of anxiety. The second hypothesis is that females are more socially anxious than males. This hypothesis is based on other studies done by Asher & Aderka (2018).

Definition of Terms

Social Anxiety. Intense fear of social interactions in a wide variety of contexts, and anticipatory anxiety that leads to social anxiety sufferers to avoid opportunities for conversation or public speaking.

Negative effects of social anxiety such as poor verbal communication skills, overly critical self-evaluations of performance after conversations or spoken presentations are finished, low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence, which is reinforced by constant self-criticism. When not interacting with close friends or family, people with severe social anxiety have a deep-seated fear of being judged, rejected, embarrassed or humiliated during social interactions. As irrational as those fears may be, they are difficult to escape. 

Literature Review

In the DSM-IV, social anxiety is defined as a concern of public scrutiny or embarrassment. Taijin Kyofusho (TKS), a Japanese form of social anxiety, is centered around concern for offending others with inappropriate behavior or offensive appearance. Cultural variables can mediate the expression of social anxiety (Kleinknecht, 1997).

However, stress was found to have interacted with personality to influence confidence, driving the behavior of individuals differing in trait anxiety in opposite directions. For instance, stress can increase overconfidence in participants with lower anxiety, while reducing self-confidence in individuals with higher anxiety (Goette et al., 2015). Based on the studies done by Steve, (2019), out of all the countries surveyed, while Singapore had the lowest levels of job satisfaction. 24% said they are extremely or somewhat dissatisfied, workers in Singapore also had the lowest levels of work-related stress, with 22% saying they felt stressed or overwhelmed ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’.

According to a review for gender differences in social anxiety disorder (Asher, 2018), findings indicate that women are highly to have a social anxiety disorder than men. They report elevated severity and physiological arousal however men seek to treatment for a greater extent. Negative self-appraisal is thought to maintain social anxiety, particularly when comparing oneself to others. Work on social comparison suggests that gender may moderate the effects of social comparison in social anxiety (Moscovitch, et, al. (2005). Self-appraisals of the desirability of one's personality may be more important to women, whereas self-appraisal of signs of anxiety may be more important to men. Within each gender, those with high social anxiety are expected to report more negative self-appraisal when comparing themselves to someone else described as high achieving (Mellisa, 2013). 

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