This is what lies beneath the booming Indian economy: a worried, sleepless and weary people.
Stress is winning. We are more forgetful, sleep-deprived and our bodies are crumbling under the pressure of progress, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) survey done in six states and released last week.
The states represented different regions — Maharashtra for west, Karnataka for south, West Bengal for east, Assam for Northeast, and Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for the north.
The study was conducted as a marker to assess the need for more extensive studies later. Commissioned in 2003 under a World Health Survey, it set out to find how stressful life is in India.
Over 47 per cent had clinical anxiety, an equal number were sad and ‘low’.
More than 34 and 44 per cent were suffering from sleeplessness and memory disorders respectively.
Stress did not seem to spare any region. Sleeplessness was highest in West Bengal (55.1 per cent) followed by Rajasthan (43.8 per cent) and Maharashtra (35.3 per cent).
Countrywide, 40 per cent were not feeling fresh and adequately rested, 30 per cent experienced relationship conflicts, and over 58 per cent suffered from body aches because of stress. In states like West Bengal, 70 per cent were clinically worried.
The fieldwork in India was done by the Indian Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS), which submitted the report to the WHO in July 2006. “Never before were these factors tabulated, but collectively these were contributing to most health hazards and non-communicable diseases, including heart disorders, blood pressure and diabetes. General health is affected by this the most,” said P Arokiaswami, an IIPS investigator.
The study was aimed at effecting policy changes and directing health programmes, said IIPS director PN Mari Bhat. “We hope this will help to develop a health policy intervention and further research,” he said.
More than half the respondents said they were finding it difficult to complete household chores. “Worry, lack of sleep and conflict are causing other ailments like sleeplessness, memory disorders and long-term damage to the body,” said psychologist Harish Shetty.