“Fear of the future”: crisis affects mental health of Argentines

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The severe political-economic crisis that Argentina is going through has hit not only the pockets of the population but also their state of mind, dominated by hopelessness and sadness, according to a survey carried out by the University of Buenos Aires (UBA).

The third largest economy in Latin America faces inflation of more than 90% per year and poverty close to 40% that has triggered social conflicts, amid bitter internal disputes within the ruling Peronist coalition.

The more than 1,700 surveyed by the Observatory of Applied Social Psychology (OPSA) of the Faculty of Psychology of the UBA said that the crisis had changed “a lot” their perspective regarding the future.

“Since I was born, Argentine history is always the same, it always goes down. It seems that you are falling in a dream and you don’t wake up, you keep falling,” Andrés Pietrovita, a 30-year-old delivery man, told Reuters.

The COVID-19 pandemic had already made the ritual of going to the psychologist a necessity for many Argentines, but the crisis has increased consultations, in a country where psychology -and psychoanalysis in particular- has a very high cultural penetration.

“All this sequentiality of crises has made the clinics have become populated,” said Gustavo González, director of OPSA and person in charge of the study, alluding to the successive crises that the country has suffered in recent decades. “This country puts us in a context of toxic life,” he added.

“The issue is wrong and, in some cases, even worse in terms of negative mental health indicators and now no longer a product of the virus (COVID-19) but of the economic crisis,” González told Reuters.

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Argentina has 222 psychologists for every 100,000 inhabitants, according to the 2017 World Health Organization mental health report, a figure much higher than the less than 30 in the United States, 49 in France and 12 in neighboring Brazil.

THE CURSE OF ETERNAL RETURN

81% of those surveyed said that the main problem is inflation, followed by corruption (67%) and the loss of purchasing power of income (64%). Faced with these issues, 76% consider that the State is not taking the necessary actions to resolve the political-economic crisis.

In an attempt to respond to the crisis, center-left President Alberto Fernández last week appointed Sergio Massa, also a Peronist, as Economy Minister and granted him broad powers to order public finances. Massa announced austerity, but few expect results any time soon.

In the midst of financial difficulties, 85% of the study participants considered that their personal and family finances will worsen over the next year and, given the loss of purchasing power, 85% indicated that they will reduce expenses.

The survey also revealed that 66% of those surveyed said they were “somewhat or much worse” than before the current crisis, while in the low and very low social strata, the percentage rose to 76%. Most of those consulted said they felt “anguish”, “fed up”, “anger” and “fear of the future”, especially young people.

Crises seem cyclical in Argentina and this accumulation has generated a “psychological saturation,” according to González.

“It affects collective motivation and that is the product of a sequence of crises, as the Argentine is unfortunately attacked by crisis, after crisis, after crisis. They are always the same problems, nobody finds the solution and this generates weariness, disappointment, hopelessness “Gonzalez said.

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“The average Argentine does not find that light at the end of the tunnel and is obviously blaming governments (…) It is like a curse that we have of eternal return,” he concluded.

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