How is the mental health of entrepreneurs in Latin America?

Of the first study group, 64% presented symptoms of severe burnout (exhaustion) and 35% moderate.


Let’s build the following image together: an entrepreneur is seen, in a T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes, moving on a stage with hundreds of young people applauding him. He’s kind of like a ‘rocksktar’ without being one. He recounts, as if the conversation were in the hallway, how he spent entire nights without sleeping, eating poorly, in the midst of the chaos of the garage where it all began, when no one believed in the idea of ​​him. Now he talks about “burning money”, about the thousands or millions of users that his business has, about how he is looking for millions of dollars in the different rounds of investment that exist in the world, about these talks because all the incubators and accelerators of ventures they insistently look for him to tell their story.

To this scene we must also add a discourse with which we grew up a couple of generations that we listened to the millionaires of Silicon Valley: sometimes it is not even necessary to go to or finish university if you have a good idea. Yes, the one that changes everything. This is how we read many of today’s wealthy people on social networks, some of those who made history with the development of electronic devices or those who created models to put to use what others had stored at home. And it worked for them. And so many of us believed that this was and is the model to follow. But, after taking this image, what do you think happens for the mental health of some of these high-impact entrepreneurs?

“According to the results produced by the online survey tool and based on the ‘WHO-5’ Index developed by the WHO, the highest incidence moves in average levels of subjective well-being (66%). There is a considerable number of High Impact Entrepreneurs, EAI, (20%) who indicated having a low subjective well-being and 28% who exhibit severe symptoms of psychological discomfort, measured in terms of self-acceptance, the existence of positive relationships with others, the development of autonomy for decision-making, control over their environment, the establishment of objectives or goals in life and the search for personal growth. On the other hand, the EAI present moderate levels of burnout (exhaustion), although 20% have clear symptoms of severe burnout”.

This has been one of the findings of the report prepared by the IDB Lab called “The invisible factor: well-being and mental health to strengthen the high-impact entrepreneurial ecosystem in Latin America and the Caribbean”. The respondents were divided into two groups: those who are in low well-being and those who are in high well-being. Of the first group, 100% of these entrepreneurs have severe symptoms of “stress, insecurity, apathy, pessimism, feeling overwhelmed, inability to limit work hours, low energy, physically ill, feeling fatigue, among others. Of the second, 30% say they have suffered the symptoms described above.

Of the first group, 64% present symptoms of severe burnout and 35% moderate. This means that they suffer from: “Working long hours, feeling of wanting to change jobs, thinking about professional obligations after work, stress and exhaustion at work, not having time for activities outside of work, feeling apathy, headache , boredom, lack of concentration, insomnia, annoyance, nausea, feeling anxious, feeling isolated, decreased immunity, moodiness, depression, feeling helpless”. Of the second group, those of high well-being, there “55% do not present symptoms, 40% moderate symptoms and only 5% severe symptoms”.

They are satisfied?

How satisfied are you with the venture? Of the first group, “43% are dissatisfied with the venture.” Of the second group, “100% feel satisfied with the venture.” And who are all these people? Of the first group, 67% women and 33% men with the majority of young people under 34 years of age, 50% married, 43% single, 7% divorced and of all, 43% have children. In the second group, 67% were men and 33% women, plus the presence of adults over 45 years of age, 65% were married, 25% single and 10% divorced. 70% with children.

In the study they also concluded that stress is caused by “the financial factor, focused on scaling up and raising more financing”, “to which are added the characteristics of their work and the pressures of family members or their environment”. Gustavo, one of the interviewees, said it almost in detail: “Stress affects everything: creativity, conversations, efficiency and competitiveness. The greater the stress, the less capacity and low tolerance for challenges”. Jorge, from Brazil, summed it up like this: “The most challenging thing is to balance being totally present in each space and in each moment. Stress is a silent enemy that little by little hammers your peace of mind and relationships with your environment. It is increasingly difficult to find how to recharge energy and how to rest to be at 200%”.

In the testimonials of many of the entrepreneurs, a contrast appears to be taken into account: “The loneliness of undertaking is a great challenge. Everyone wants to be part of the achievements, but very few want to be in the daily challenge”, “Financial insecurity”, “Customer demands”, “Partner interests and decision-making in the face of resignations”, “Having to study a tertiary degree (Systems Engineering) while doing my business, due to family and economic pressure”, “High level of change in the rules of the tax game and uncertainty. Inflexible staff and little aware of the surrounding situations. Work situations, disabilities, change from virtual to face-to-face”, “Problems within the company with the service line. Lack of time to achieve everything. To this is added: “Pressure for results, people always have exploited agendas and they don’t have time, it’s alienating, people know it but continue to make efforts to adapt instead of starting to question the ways of doing things that don’t they are not even good for people”, “Uncertainty about what are the next steps to take in the company”.

Health, in the end, is the most necessary of all to be able to move forward. And the how, as well as the will to do business, you have to have discipline to change course. Andreína herself, from Colombia, said it: “Once I had a burnout, I was very young and I didn’t know that she was so exhausted. And it is that I thought that every hour of work would boost the company and it did not matter if I did not sleep, did not exercise, spent the day without eating -sometimes only once a day-, I did not take care of myself. toxic productivity. Now I make an effort to give myself time to meditate and go to the gym. It took me many books, retreats, to learn it and live it first hand”.

So, what can be done to improve not only the mental health of entrepreneurs but their environment that is also affected? The answer also appears in this document, thanks to the responses of the entrepreneurs themselves, where they refer to coping with stress and anxiety: “The most common strategy identified used by the participating EAIs has to do with lifestyles ( 84%). It especially helps them to exercise, listen to music, read, walk, sleep more and better, eat healthier and reduce coffee, alcohol or tobacco. The second most used strategy is social connection (32%), which includes spending time with family, partner, friends, doing group activities online or in person, participating in thematic interest groups or hobbies. This is followed by spirituality and religiosity practices (30%), including doing yoga, meditation, praying or attending religious ceremonies, and some do therapies and psychotherapeutic work with specialists to recognize their emotions (27%)”.

In the end, this is a reality that begins when the business is created, but it does not have an end, neither in the forms nor in the funds, unless they fall at the closing of the company. There is no formula to follow, all cases are different, while some enjoy the pressure, others run out of families. Jairo, from Colombia, released a more than sensible reality: “When you are CEO, nobody thinks of you. You are the one who thinks of others. I feel like no one thinks of me. It would be good if someone thinks of us entrepreneurs”.

So what we do?

And what is the role of each main actor in all this reality? The authors of this study from the IDB Lab, César Buenadicha, Juan Pablo López Gross, Carolina Carrasco, Isabela Echeverry and Mara Balestrini, wrote it: “Promote the well-being and mental health of the ecosystem of high-impact entrepreneurs in LAC, and the population in general, especially vulnerable sectors, is undoubtedly a great challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency of attending to it and the need to invest more and better to improve the situation. Undoubtedly, we are facing a unique window of opportunity in which governments, the private and entrepreneurial sector, civil society, as well as international organizations, are more aware of the need and agree that it is essential to increase investment and expand access to support tools Now, it’s time to move from words to action.”

The document cites data from the IDB’s Health and Social Protection Division, which states that “investment in mental health in Latin America is low in relation to the total burden of diseases attributable to these disorders. Mental disorders represent 20% of the total burden of all diseases in the region, but spending on mental health and welfare services is only 2% of the total that Latin American countries invest in health. After decades of being considered “the next emergency”, always surpassed by some other need in public spending decisions, and due to the profound impacts of the pandemic, it is urgent to prioritize it.”

And then what will happen? “Particularly from IDB Lab, as the innovation laboratory of the IDB Group, it will seek to define a strategy that allows the creation, in coordination with the public sector of the bank and IDB Invest, a new line of work with this approach. Within its strategic health vertical, support for well-being and mental health will be promoted, both for the high-impact entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region, and for poor and vulnerable populations, especially from a gender and diversity perspective. Like the three initial actions, it will seek to i) carry out a regional mapping to identify actors working on the subject and collect relevant data and information; ii) explore financing opportunities for innovative projects that are testing new models and the use of technology, offering products or tools that allow increasing access to support services and scaling the impact; and iii) IDB Lab will seek to generate knowledge, make the issue visible and promote new networks of connections to encourage startups, investment funds, incubators, accelerators and other actors in the ecosystem, so that they include and prioritize the well-being and mental health approach in their business activities and models.

If you know stories of entrepreneurs and their ventures, write to us at Edwin Bohórquez Aya ( or that of Tatiana Gómez Fuentes ( 👨🏻‍💻 🤓📚

How is the mental health of entrepreneurs in Latin America?