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The emerging lifestyle diseases not only affect the economic conditions
of the individuals but also the productivity of the economy which is going to
be threatened dangerously in the near future
Lifestyle disease is one
associated with the way a person or group of people livesIn other words, lifestyle diseases characterise those diseases
whose occurrence is primarily based on the daily habits of people and are a
result of an inappropriate relationship of people with their environment. These
diseases include hypertension, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, obesity,
diseases associated with smoking and alcohol and drug abuse, cancer, chronic bronchitis,
premature mortality etc. Lifestyle diseases which are also called diseases of longevity
or diseases of civilisation interchangeably are diseases that appear to
increase in frequency as countries become more industrialised and people live
longer. There are several factors leading to the occurrence of lifestyle diseases
including factors like bad food habits, physical inactivity, wrong body
posture, and disturbed biological clock. However, the significant factor contributing
to lifestyle diseases of the present day may be regarded as the occupational
nature of the people. The occupational pattern in India has undergone drastic
changes in recent decades giving priority to IT and other similar services
neglecting the very base of the agrarian culture. Along with these changes in
occupation, the food habits of the society too changed that gradually caused
the spread of several lifestyle diseases in our society.
Mounting figures of lifestyle disorders
Several studies have been
conducted by different organisations to identify the magnitude of lifestyle
diseases in India. According to a survey conducted the Associated Chamber of
Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM), 68 percent of working women in the age
bracket of 21-52 years were found to be afflicted with lifestyle disorders such
as obesity, depression, chronic backache, diabetes and hypertension.
Another study by Preventive Healthcare and Corporate Female Workforce summarised
that long hours of work under strict deadlines cause up to 75 percent of
working women to suffer from depression or general anxiety disorder, compared
to women with lesser levels of psychological demand at work. Women employed in
sectors that demand more time like those in media, knowledge process outsourcing
and touring jobs are unable to take leave when they are unwell. These tensed
and continuous working conditions force themselves to work mainly due to job
insecurity, especially during the current financial
meltdown. In India, around 10 percent of adults suffer from
hypertension while the country is home to 25-30 million diabetics. Three out of
every 1,000 people suffer a stroke.
IT sector has been
playing dominant role in Indian economy both in terms of contribution to GDP
and its employment generation capability. It was estimated that this sector has
increased its contribution to India’s GDP from 1.2 percent in FY 1998 to 7.5
percent in Y2012. Moreover, this sector has also led to massive employment generation.
The industry continues to be a net employment generator - expected to add
230,000 jobs in FY 2012, thus providing direct employment to about 2.8 million,
and indirectly employing 8.9 million people. Generally being a dominant player
in the global outsourcing sector Indian IT sector has emerged to be a key development
strategy. Due to the above factors, majority of Indian youth depend directly or
indirectly on this priority sector. However, according to the findings of the study
by ASSOCHAM, around 55 percent of young workforce engaged in India’s IT
and ITES sector are stricken with lifestyle disorders due to factors like
hectic work schedules, unhealthy eating habits, tight deadlines, irregular and associated
stress. More than half of the respondents participated in the survey said that due
to 24 x 7 working environment and irregular food timings they directly place orders
to fast food outlets, street food vendors and roadside eateries operating outside
their offices serving ready to eat high calorie processed food items like
noodles, burgers, pizza, and fried stuff like samosas along with aerated
drinks, and coffee, etc.
Sleeping disorders are alarmingly
growing among the employees in the corporate work field. ASSOCHAM records that 78
percent of corporate employees suffer from sleeping disorders leading to Impact
of Insomnia on Health and Productivity. Due to demanding schedules and
high stress levels, nearly 78 percent of the corporate employees sleep less
than 6 hours in a day which leads to sleep disorders amongst them. The report
is based on the survey conducted in the major cities like Delhi, Mumbai,
Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabd, Pune, Chandigarh, Dehradun etc. As per ASSOCHAM’S
corporate employees’ survey result, 36 percent of the sample population
are also suffering from obesity. It can be logically summarised that
obesity alone can modify occupational morbidity, mortality and injury risks that
can further affect workplace absence, disability, productivity and healthcare
costs. Almost 21 percent of the sample corporate employees suffer from another serious
lifestyle disease called depression. High blood pressure and diabetes
are the fourth and fifth largest diseases with a share of 12 percent and 8 percent respectively as suffered
among the corporate employees.
A striking case of life
style disorders found in the India’s most developed state, Kerala which is almost
on par with some of the European countries and America in terms of development
indictors. The state is fast emerging as the lifestyle diseases capital of
India with the prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, obesity and other risk factors
for heart disease reaching levels comparable to those in America, as revealed
in a recentstudy done by Dr K R
Thankappan and his colleagues at the Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies.
It was found that overall prevalence of diabetes in Kerala is about 16.2
percent. This is estimated to be 50 percent higher than in the US, according to
the results of the study published in the Indian journal of Medical
Research. High blood pressure is present in 32 percent people,
comparable to recent estimates in the US. Close to 57 percent people studied
had abnormal levels of cholesterol, while 39.5 percent had low HDL cholesterol.
The prevalence of smoking in men and use of alcohol are dangerously growing in
the state. This transition of the state to an era of life style diseases is
driven by economic growth, urbanization and our changing food habits.
Economic and productivity impact
It is predicted that
globally, deaths from non communicable diseases (NCD) will increase by 77 percent
between 1990 and 2020 and that most of these deaths will occur in the
developing regions of the world including India. These conditions not only
cause enormous human suffering, they also threat the economies of many countries
as they impact on the older and experienced members of the workforce. In India
alone, heart ailments, stroke and diabetes are the most demanding ones which
are expected to take away the country’s gross national income to a huge extent
by the year 2015.
As per the report,
jointly prepared by the World Health Organization and the World Economic
Forum, India will incur an accumulated loss of $236.6 billion
by 2015 on account of unhealthy lifestyles and faulty diet. The resultant
chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and
respiratory infections which are ailments of long duration and slow
progression, will severely affect people’s earnings. The income loss to Indians
because of these diseases, which was $8.7billion in 2005, is projected to rise o
$54 billion in 2015.
ASSOCHAM’s healthcare survey further reveals that 41 percent of employees spend in the range
of Rs.500-5000 on health care in a financial year.
Over 36 percent of the survey respondents say that
they spend less than Rs. 500 on their health expenditure in a year. 21 percent
of the employee’s health expenditure ranged between Rs. 5,000-50000, as they suffered
from diabetes, acute liver disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure and
stroke. Merely 2 percent of the employees spend more than Rs. 50,000 due to
heart disease, paralytic attack, surgery etc.
India’s rapid economic
growth could be slowed by a sharp rise in the prevalence of heart disease, stroke
and diabetes, and the successful information technology industry is likely to
be the hardest hit. So-called lifestyle diseases are estimated to have wiped $
9 billion off the country’s national income in 2005, but the cost could reach more
than £ 100 billion over the next 10 years if corrective action is not taken
soon. The study by the Indian Council for Research on International
Economic Relationssays that although India’s boom has brought
spiralling corporate profits and higher incomes for employees, it has also led
to a surge in workplace stress and lifestyle diseases.
The emerging lifestyle diseases
not only affect the economic conditions of the individuals but also the
productivity of the economy which is going to be threatened dangerously in the
near future. As majority of employees especially those in the IT sector suffer
from different types of health disorders and obesity, the productivity that
depends on the efficiency and enthusiastic involvement of youth may in all way have
to be compromised. The wrong choice of occupation in the blind run for higher
salaries and the resultantly developing food habits generate all kinds of evil
effects to the health of our youth. Over exploitation of the potentials of our
youth particularly those in the IT sector may in course of time depreciate their efficiency and productivity leading to poor economic performance of the economy.
A healthy lifestyle must
be adopted to combat these diseases with a roper balanced diet, physical activity and by
giving due respect to biological clock. To decrease the ailments caused by
occupational postures, one should avoid long sitting hours and should take
frequent breaks for stretching or for other works involving physical movements.
In this revolutionised era we cannot stop doing the developmental work, but we
can certainly reduce ou railments by
incorporating these simple and effective measures to our lives. The working
conditions especially in the IT sector should be properly monitored assuring that
the potentials of our youth are not overexploited by the corporate profit motive employers. Moreover, the consumption pattern giving priority to fast food culture has
to be effectively controlled. Even though, consumerism increases spending and
boosts a country’s economy therefore increases its status around the globe, the
evidence presented demonstrates the effects of unregulated consumption in modern
society. Here is the role the media, marketers and social class play in
moulding an individuals’ identity, protecting their good health and the
efficiency and productivity of nation’s huge human resources.
Jomon Mathew The author
is Assistant Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, University
College, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.