Argentina’s failing economy leads to declining mental health among its citizens

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Argentinians mired in their country’s recent economic downturn are experiencing a growing sense of hopelessness, a landmark mental health study suggests is booming for at least one profession: psychologists.

Beset by inflation that erodes livelihoods as the peso currency steadily depreciates, the dysfunctional economy is taking a toll on the population’s mood and its wallets.

Here is the conclusion of a survey by the Department of Applied Psychology of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), 85% of 1,700 respondents feel that the current crisis has little hope for the future, with half describing the change as significant or severe.

Economic protests have raged around the world as challenges from inflation, the Ukraine war, the coronavirus mount

Blessed with rich natural resources, the South American country has lurched from one crisis to another in the 200-plus years since independence, gradually helping fuel demand for accessible mental health care through public hospitals.

People exercise in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as mental health takes a hit across the nation due to the failing economy. Photo taken on August 9, 2022.
(REUTERS/Augustin Markarian)

According to pre-pandemic data from the World Health Organization, Argentina had 222 psychologists per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with 49 in France and 30 in the United States.

“The continuous cycle of crisis fills many doctors’ offices,” said Gustavo González, head of the Department of Applied Psychology at UBA.

“Things are bad, and in some ways, worse in terms of mental health.”

The UBA survey showed the most frequently used words by respondents to describe their current mood were “anxiety,” “boredom,” “angry” and — the single most used word among 18-29-year-olds — ” fear of the future .”

Nearly 90% said they thought their financial situation would worsen in the next year.

President Alberto Fernández has tried to stop the economic rot, including extending powers over trade, industrial and agricultural policy to his latest economy minister, Sergio Massa.

Meanwhile, the ranks of the poor have swelled to nearly 40% of the population.

UBA’s Gonzalez said the current turmoil is contributing to “psychological saturation” for those most affected, as many emotionally exhausted people abandon the possibility of a brighter future.

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“Average Argentines cannot find the light at the end of the tunnel, and they obviously hold the government accountable,” he said, potentially bad news for Fernández’s ruling center-left Peronists when the country holds elections next year.

“It’s like a curse that returns forever.”

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