Pressure to perform in exams is causing school students - from Class 9 to 12 - to pop memory-enhancing pills, smoke, eat junk food and suffer blackouts, says a study even as tests are on in most schools in and around the national capital.
The study says such students - many of whom are taking the crucial Class 10 and 12 board examinations these days - believe they will be called failures if they don't score above 80 percent.
Well-known psychiatrist Samir Parikh, who conducted the study in 20 schools across Delhi and the surrounding towns of Gurgaon and Noida, said the pressure from teachers and parents to perform is intense.
"Instead of a supportive environment that is needed to help make students feel calm and relaxed, there is a tendency by teachers and parents to constantly prod them. It places excessive pressure on them to perform," Parikh, chief of the mental health and behavioural science department at Max Healthcare, Saket, south Delhi, told IANS.
The study, for which 944 boys and 1,056 girls were examined, said this pressure makes many students take to pills to improve memory and concentration.
"Seven out of every 100 boys and five out of every 100 girls find taking medication to enhance memory functioning an essential and viable option," said the study in which students from Class 9 were included.
The students also munch on chips and other snacks so that they don't waste time eating proper meals, the study said. This habit is more common among girls than boys - 30 percent of the former and 26 percent of the latter feed on snacks.
"These children feel pressurised to study and do not want to waste study time in eating proper food and prefer to snack without giving due regard to the negative consequences it might have for their health," Parikh said.
Many students complain that they experience blackouts even if they are preparing for a simple class test.
The study said more than 40 percent of both boys and girls experience high levels of stress and anxiety before taking an exam due to the pressures they face.
Around 10 percent of boys and girls also take to smoking as they feel it would help them relax.
"It is indicative of our education system and lack of guidance that children don't know it is harmful for their health," it added.
The students also said before their examinations they found it difficult to sleep. About 36 percent boys and 44 percent girls said they couldn't sleep before examinations or even simple tests in school.
"This indicates that more than 30 percent of both boys and girls find it difficult to relax and sleep before an exam," Parikh said.
Most students are so pressurised to score over 80 percent that they fear they will be called a failure otherwise. "More than 30 percent of both boys and girls feel pressurised to score well, another indicator of stress," said the study.
Parikh said: "More often than not performance in examinations is taken to be a benchmark of the nature of that person and people would like to be associated with high achievers.
"Much of this is reflective of the need inherent in most of us to be surrounded by people who do well. This over-preoccupation with marks has a negative impact on the students."