Chucaque and Social Stress among Peruvian Highlanders

Abstract

Highland agriculturalists complain of the cultural syndrome chucaque in the Peruvian Andes. The first aim of this research was to ethnographically document cases of a cultural syndrome utilizing theoretical elements borrowed from cognitive anthropology. Another aim was to use case-control sampling to determine if there was a relationship between higher social stress levels and the development of a cultural syndrome. The research reported here integrated qualitative and quantitative methods. The social stress gauge developed by Rubel et al. (1984) was adapted to the Andean cultural environment and utilized to assess highland social stressors. Chucaque was found to be locally defined as a specific type of head pain commonly associated with the episode of a traumatic event. Chucaque and household social stress levels were found to be significantly related, especially when the ratio of males to females, which often was imbalanced, was included in the analysis.