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Monday, June 20, 2016

46% of workforce in firms in India suffer from some or the other form of stress: Data

Last Saturday, 47-year old fitness freak Saumil Shah, who headed equities at Bank of America Merrill Lynch India, died of a sudden heart attack. 

A couple of weeks before, 47-year-old Britannica Chief Operating Officer Vineet Whig jumped off to his death from a building in Gurgaon. Some news reports said the suicide note found in his pocket stated that he was ending his life as he was "fed up" with himself. 

A combination of lifestyle issues and overall environmental stress is creating tremendous pressure for individuals leading to heart attacks or mental issues such as depression or suicides, said doctors and experts. There is no proof that Shah's death is stress related but it shocked corporate India as a young life was snapped so suddenly. 

A high 46% of the workforce in organisations in India suffers from some or the other form of stress, according to the latest data from Optum, a top provider of employee assistance programmes to corporates. Optum's study had a sample size of 200,000 employees (over 30 large employers) who took an online Health Risk Assessment during the first quarter of 2016. 
46% of workforce in firms in India suffer from some or the other form of stress: Data 

The study found 43% with skewed BMI (body mass index), of which 30% with diabetic risk, 30% with hypertension risk and 46% high on stress. This number is about 30% higher than a survey that it conducted in 2014 with a sample size of 30,000. Commonly accepted BMI ranges are underweight: under 18.5, normal weight: 18.5 to 25, overweight: 25 to 30, obese: over 30. 

"It is a burning issue in corporate India that everyone has to address. Our entire society creates stress, right from childhood exam results to making a career. Organisations must understand that there is this serious factor called stress and proactively deal with it," said Harsh Mariwala, chairman of Marico. 

"The stress could be related to personal issues, office politics, or performance target issues. If it's about targets or a bad boss or even a personal issue, it's the duty of an organisation to address it through counselling and discussions and reworking that individual's work to reduce stress." 

"Everyone says there is stress but when shareholders raise questions and promoters rap our knuckles and there are huge compensation packages and huge EMIs involved in a consumerist culture, all the sensitiveness around that flies out of the window. I personally think it's an organisational culture and finally an individual's call," said a CEO of a leading consumer goods company. 

Another major issue in corporate India today is mental health conditions like depression that are not talked, and yet the statistics shock. 

More than 2500 employees across 150 clients have reached out to 1to1help. net for help with suicidal tendency in the last 10 years, with over 70% of those numbers in the last five years alone, data from the leading provider of Employee Assistance Programs showed. "Not only are there large numbers contemplating suicide, but huge numbers even among those working in corporate India," said Archana Bisht, director at 

"In the last one month we have heard about 6-7 suicide cases by corporates in Bangalore itself. These are cases that go unreported," says Amber Alam, chief growth officer and head of business India at Optum International. 

Optum's Health Risk Assessment Tool, which also provides individual employees with an HRA Age, shows that an employee who is 32 years old may be living in his 40s and this could be because of his lifestyle, lack of exercise and bad eating habits. 

"Stress is a common problem underestimated by organisations and individuals," said Dr Neeraj Kumar Tulara, senior consultant physician at Mumbai's Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital. There is a rising case of metabolic syndrome that includes diabetes, high uric acid, high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol. 

"It is a lifestyle problem. Family or personal pressure, work performance pressure, peer pressure, difficult boss, all of this is taking a toll on physical and mental health of people. And most of it is going unrecognised," says Dr Tulara. 

Though several progressive companies provide annual health risk assessment check-ups for employees and have facilities such as gym and fitness centres in office premises, many people at the top level do not even have the time to avail of these. 

"Our study shows that among first generation doctors (75-80 years) average survival age is much higher compared to third generation doctors where incidences of premature death has increased substantially," said Tulara. In the last one year at least 4-5 senior doctors died of heart attack in their early or mid-40s. 

It is a vicious cycle. A person these days try to release stress by going to parties, where there will be drinking and heavy eating, which in turn takes a toll on health. "Stress is rising because we experience continuous low-level stress. Unpredictability creates stress because we no longer have control. 

People's skills are quickly becoming obsolete. That makes the future very uncertain," said Abhijit Bhaduri, chief learning officer at Wipro. "More than 50% firms on Standard & Poor's in 2000 have disappeared. Someone unknown could upset a long standing business. Too many aspects of life are left to chance. That causes stress," added Bhaduri. 

Many organisations run wellness programs but focus on running an end-to-end wellness initiative is rare, not because employers do not want to spend on employees wellbeing, but because there is lack of scientific reasoning when it comes to deployment of wellness campaigns.

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