Anthropology Faculty Publications and Presentations

Regional Variation in Latino Descriptions of Susto

Document Type


Publication Date



Susto, a folk illness notrecognized by biomedical practitioners as adisease, is now formally part of the diagnosticclassification system in psychiatry as a“culture-bound syndrome.” Susto has beenreported among diverse groups of LatinAmericans, but most of those reports areseveral decades old and many were conducted inIndian communities. This study focuses oncontemporary descriptions of susto anduses a cross-cultural, comparative design todescribe susto in three diverse Latinopopulations. Mestizo/ladino populations wereinterviewed in Guatemala, Mexico, and southTexas. An initial set of open-ended interviewswas conducted with a sample of “key” informantsat each site to obtain descriptive informationabout susto. A structured interviewprotocol was developed for use at all threesites, incorporating information from thoseinitial interviews. A second set of structuredinterviews was then conducted with arepresentative sample at each site. Resultsindicate a good deal of consistency in reportsof what susto is: what causes it, itssymptoms, and how to treat it. There appear tobe, however, some notable regional variationsin treatments and a difference between pastdescriptions and contemporary reports ofetiology.


Reprints and Permissions

Publication Title

Cult Med Psychiatry