The data from several of the city hospitals indicate that more than 50% of the patients suffering from depression and anxiety are employed with the IT sector or BPOs.
Doctors said late-night shifts, work pressure and decreased social activity could be the reason for this.
“In our hospital, nearly 1,200 patients were treated for depression and anxiety in the last year. More than half of them were in the age group of 25-35 and were working for BPOs and IT companies in the late night shifts,” said Dr Owais Farooqui, clinical neuropsychologist at Metro Hospital in Noida.
The doctor said the core reasons behind the young professionals falling prey to such issues were stress, uncertainty in life and decreased social interaction.
“One of the major reasons is the disturbance in the biological clock. People working in the IT and BPO sector often have shift changes, at least once a month. This leads to disturbance in their biological clock. They cannot adjust immediately and sleeplessness leads to aggressive behaviour. To counter this, they often turn to alcohol and other such substances,” Farooqui said.
“When I mean social interaction, I am certainly not talking about social networking websites. What I mean is that they are not meeting new people so there is virtually nothing new happening in their lives,” he said.
Another senior consultant (psychiatrist) Dr Manu Tiwari from Fortis Hospital in Noida said the use of alcohol and other substances tend complicate the issue further.
“To stay awake for graveyard shifts, some BPO workers turn to substances such as cannabis and their social life too gets limited. This leads to anxiety disorders and depression,” Dr Tiwari said.
According to experts, workers in the age group of 35-40 years are affected the worst by such problems.
“If I am treating 100 patients a month, 50 of them are from the IT and BPO sectors. The worst affected are those who have spent most of their career working in a BPO but are unable to continue working as they have a family. The problem is that they feel they cannot do anything else since they have worked in the BPO industry for more than 10 years,” Dr Tiwari said.
Jaypee Hospital too reported a rise in such cases. The hospital’s mental health department is treating about 30-40 patients a month, mostly IT and BPO professionals.
“This is not a disorder limited to few people. The kind of industry they are working in, BPO workers are always stressed about their uncertain career and fears of being laid off. We advise such patients to stay stress-free, as much as they can. Yoga and meditation can help in this regard. But, ultimately, the tension of earning a livelihood and maintaining the lifestyle they have opted for takes a toll,” said Mrinmay Das, consultant psychiatrist at Jaypee Hospital, Noida.
Members of the call centres’ association declined to comments on the observation of the doctors but said they were taking care of their employees’ health in the best possible manner.
“We cannot comment on what the doctors have said. For the good health of our employees, we often organise activities, outings, and parties. Every fortnight, we have a mandatory activity and we ask the team leaders to ensure that everybody participates. We have a team of doctors and any employee can consult their respective doctors in case of health issues. Also, we have a number of stress busting recreational activities organised every day,” said Abhijit Srihan, senior manager at an MNC and member of call centres’ association.
“Most of the BPOs have gymnasiums, pool tables, table tennis courts and provision for other such games. There are around 500-600 IT and BPO offices in the twin cities, which are a substantial source of employment to the youth,” he said.
Officials from the National association of software and services companies refused to give an immediate reply over the issue.