Tuesday, October 5, 2010

You'd have to be crazy to not have a shrink

In a 2005 survey, it was found that Argentina had a mind-boggling 121.2 psychologists per 100,000 inhabitants. That’s one psychologist for every 700 citizens.

This staggeringly high shrink per capita ratio was by far the world’s highest, knocking Denmark into second place with 85 per 100,000 Danes, while the USA, in ninth place, had 31.1 psychologists to cater for the psychological issues of each 100,000 of its citizens.

And the number here continues to rise.

As of 2008, there were 145 psychologists per 100,000 Argentines. While in the city of Buenos Aires the number reached quite out of your mind proportions; a whopping 789 shrinks for every 100,000 porteños, according to a report by Modesto Alonso and Paula Gago.

That’s really teasing poor old Guatemala and Egypt, who rank last with only ten shrinks per one million of their inhabitants.

Psychotherapy was first really introduced to Argentina in the 1940s with the arrival of some rather prominent Jewish psychoanalysts from Austria and Germany. It soon became a dominant element of the culture and by the late 1970s, the last military junta to rule the country began to blame psychologists for the country’s ‘negativity and navel-gazing.’

Military dictatorship cranking out control may have resulted in the disappearance of some better known psychologists but it did not put the brakes on the profession’s expansion and the number of shrinks catering for the psycho-babble needs of the people, rose and rose from 5,500 in 1974 to 37,000 in 1998, and has now arrived at over 57,000.

In modern day Argentina, mental health is covered by nearly all social welfare services, and going to sit down, or lie down, or stand up and walk around in circles with your shrink is as normal as hitting the gym, or going to the doctor when you feel under the weather. There may be as many psychology clinics on a typical block as there are kiosks selling sweet, alternative therapy-chocolate covered alfajores.

Why the obsession?

Although there have been no anthropological or sociological studies to identify why the interest in psychology is so paramount in Argentina, some experts suggest it is due to a society frustrated by an ever present failure to meet expectations, and a mentality dominated by the idea of the next economic/political crisis.

While others maintain that is has nothing to with a neurosis about the country’s problems, but more a simple interest amongst Argentines to know themselves better in an ever increasingly challenging world.

But for whatever reason, be it for a ball-swelling boss, or a I’m stuck in I wanna rub my temples with sandpaper relationship, Argentines do take comfort in chatting it through with one of the country’s thousands of mental health pros, and tend to have no qualms about talking openly about their shrink visiting escapades.

So, while in other less psychoanalytically developed societies, people may think of you as a little loco to have a shrink, in Argentina the only real stigma attached to it all, is if you don’t have one.


  1. Amazing. I lived in Brazil and they told me that Argentines were obsessive about shrinks but I never believed it.

  2. A part of the upcoming neighbourhood Palermo is actually called Villa Freud, or even Palermo sensible (Sensitive Palermo), just because so many therapists reside there and psychoanalysis, though out of fashion in Europe is still quite hot in Buenos Aires. I've dated several Argentinas but yet have to meet one who didn't frequent a psychologist...

  3. Do you have the actual survey? I'll love to have the WHO references