Susto and Cross-Cultural and Cross-National Differences in PTSD and Depression in Mexican and U.S. Participants

Michelle Leon, Fordham University


Susto is a cultural concept of distress that is found in many Latin American populations and in some Latinx communities living in the United States. Susto is described as distress due to soul loss, or a sudden intense fear or traumatic event and is also used to describe the symptoms and sickness that follows the startling event. Susto is considered a culturally sanctioned effort to draw attention to one's social or medical necessities and can serve as a predictor of mental health problems. Research links susto and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as they are both etiologically defined by distress due to a sudden intense fear or a result from a traumatic event. While research associates susto with PTSD, there is a lack of research investigating symptom overlap between the illness and major depressive disorder (MDD), and how this may differ between specific ethnic groups. The aim of this thesis is to investigate differential symptom endorsement of self-reported PTSD and MDD symptoms associated with susto in a sample of multiethnic Mexican and U.S. individuals, (N = 1,812). This research provides partial support for susto as factor that may affect Mexican and US Latinx individuals’ and Mexican womens’ higher or more severe symptom endorsement for PTSD and MDD symptoms that relate to susto on the PCL-5 and BDI-II. The differential endorsement of symptoms of susto, PTSD, and MDD based on cultural group and culture-by-gender group comparisons, suggests that commonly used measures that assess for PTSD and MDD symptoms are not assessing these symptoms equally across groups and this has important implications concerning measurement invariance.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Ethnic studies|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Leon, Michelle, "Susto and Cross-Cultural and Cross-National Differences in PTSD and Depression in Mexican and U.S. Participants" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28086896.