India plays Australia in the World Cup quarter finals tonight, and the tension across town is palpable. Debashree Banerjee hasn’t slept for three nights, Atul Rawat is smoking 32 cigarettes a day, and Shantanu Banerjee has taken sick leave. “I cannot sleep! I keep thinking that we have to play against Australia in a knock-out round,” says Banerjee, 26, an advertising executive. As thing heat up in the knockout rounds of the World Cup, experts say stress levels are higher than ever.
“The number of anxiety cases goes up by 20% during key matches. People forget that it’s just a game,” says psychiatrist Dr Deepak Raheja, adding, “Recently, we treated a young man who had a nervous breakdown after he lost a crore on bets during the first round of matches.”
Making matters worse is the fact that the tournament is clashing with the board exams. Counsellors say they’ve been inundated by calls from students unable to concentrate. “One student was even diagnosed with insomnia — he would watch the matches till late, and then keep analysing them. A stress buster became a stress giver!” says Dr Jitendra Nagpal of VIMHANS mental health centre.
The match stress is also taking a toll on work lives. “People are so distracted during matches that they’re SMSing or calling for score. It affects their productivity,” says Devika Mathur, an HR manager with an MNC. For smokers, the tense moments in a match are an excuse to puff even more. “We see a 25% rise in cigarette sales whenever India is playing,” says Atin Khanna of Juke Box Café Bar in Nehru Place.