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India’s 82% of the Population Suffers from High Stress Levels

In Health
April 01, 2019

Cigna TTK Health Insurance, a joint venture between U.S. based global health service leader, Cigna Corporation (NYSE:CI), and Indian conglomerate TTK Group and Manipal Group today released the results of its 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey – Well and Beyond.

The Survey reveals that stress levels in India remain very high compared to other developed and emerging countries such as the USA, UK, Germany, France and Australia. Almost 82 percent of India’s population are suffering from stress and those in the sandwich generation (aged 35-49) are most affected with around 89 percent reporting some level of stress. The major causes of stress in the country today are work, health, and finance related issues.

The Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey, now on its fifth year, aims to examine people’s perceptions of well-being across five key indexes – physical, family, social, financial and work. The addition of numerous health-related topics makes this Cigna’s most comprehensive survey to date. This year’s survey shines the spotlight on India’s workplace wellness programs, which are more widespread and have higher participation rates than most other markets.

Low Awareness on Heart Health
When questioned as to whether respondents knew their own Body Mass Index (BMI) and blood pressure numbers, India fared better than the global average showing an awareness of heart health indicators. 61% know their BMI (compared to 51% globally) and 76% know their blood pressure compared to 66% globally.

However, they are aware of an average of 2.2 symptoms that may indicate potential heart problems compared to the global average of 2.4. Even worse, in the past six months, respondents experienced an average number of 2.3 symptoms compared to 1.8 globally. 1 in 3 people don’t think high blood pressure is curable with lifestyle change suggesting a gap in heart health education while only 38% of respondents use wearables to track and manage heart health.

“It’s extremely worrying that 1 in 3 people don’t think high blood pressure is curable with lifestyle change, as these silent conditions can lead to a deadly heart attack or stroke if untreated. A major finding of concern is that India has witnessed an alarming rise in the occurrence of heart disease and stroke in the past 25 years. Thus it is extremely important to increase awareness about a heart-healthy lifestyle for everyone, and not just for people with existing health problem to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve quality of wellbeing”, says Prasun Sikdar, MD and Chief Executive Officer, Cigna TTK Health Insurance.

Sandwich Generation Worse Off
Compared to other generations, the Indian sandwich generation (aged 35-49) report the lowest scores across the overall index and are particularly concerned about their physical, finance and work wellness, underscoring the need to address the stress levels and pressures of this generation, the core workforce in the coming years.

89% of this segment deal with stress, compared to 87% of millennials and 64% of the age 50+ group. As a result, maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge for them with only half able to maintain a healthy weight compared to 58% of millennials and 55% of the older segment. Less than half think they are doing well financially. They question their financial ability to meet their parents’ medical needs. Only 51% feel confident about their ability compared to 58% of millennials and 62% of those 50+.

Women Want Tailored Workplace Wellness Programmes
Contrary to global findings, in India men (85%) are more stressed than working women (82%). However, when it comes to unmanageable stress, both men and women fare the same at 5%. Similar to other markets, the majority of women (87%) think that workplace wellness programmes need to better address the specific needs of each gender, while 63% feel that senior management do not seriously support these programmes. Top causes of stress for women are too much work, family finance concerns and personal health concerns.

Despite India’s relatively healthy wellness numbers, there are many ways to further improve workplace wellness programs. Starting with the prioritisation of mental well-being and implementation of flexible work arrangements, taking into account how working women differ with regards to their stage in life, and single women’s needs differ from those who are married and those with children.

Achieving Workplace Wellness
Globally, only 36% claim to have a workplace wellness program; in India 66% claim to have one and 56% participate. However, 71% feel that these programmes concentrate on physical health at the expense of mental well-being. 71% receive employer support for stress, with a 59% satisfaction rate (“they think the support is adequate”) compared to 28% globally. There is room for improvement still, given that 85% work in an “always on” culture, higher than the global average of 64%.

96% of respondents feel that colleagues’ stress has impacted the workplace compared to the global average of 91%. Interestingly, in India, the key impacts lean towards the positive and differ from global sentiments. Noticing their colleagues’ stress make Indians more conscious about managing their own stress and make them more caring towards each other contrary to global findings where people cite a depressing work atmosphere, lower morale and less productivity as the key impacts. It looks like Indian employers are doing something right, with people feeling more satisfied and less pessimistic than their global counterparts.

Cigna’s theme this year is Well and Beyond, a call to make whole person wellness a priority. Cigna wants to empower people on their wellness journey, take control of their well-being needs and options and give them tools to help increase awareness of health matters. To read the full report, visit 2019 Cigna 360 Well -Being Survey- Well and Beyond.