Stress takes its toll on Indian Techies
Bangalore, Dec 8
After leading a life filled with flashy cars and fancy parties, many software developers in Bangalore are visiting psychiatrists as stress and fear of losing their jobs take a heavy toll, doctors say.
"A lot more software engineers are walking in with stress-related problems now than an year ago," said C R Chandrashekar, head of the Department of Psychiatry at NIMHans -the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore.
"These guys complain of lack of appetite, body pains, anxiety, restlessness and poor concentration which are clear symptoms of stress," Chandrashekar told AFP.
"Some are burned out and others suffer from depression and anxiety. It is sheer workload and competition. Another key factor is the fear their job will not be there the next day" he said.
Bangalore is home to more than 100,000 software code writers and engineers, and accounts for about a fourth of India's software exports of eight billion dollars in the last fiscal year.
During the dotcom boom two years ago, software engineers were receiving fat pay packets and were very much in demand.
But psychiatrists said a depressed technology market and announcements of massive lay-offs by global firms have driven Indian software professionals to the edge.
"Some of them came to me and said when they went to office they found severance pay packet being laid out on the table. Others fear they will get only Rs 5,000 in place of the Rs 150,000 they were earning in their last job," Chandrashekar said.
"So, their prestige is lost among their friends. People laugh at them. Many of them do not have skills to cope up with this kind of stress. In other cases, they cannot keep pace with competition from juniors and peers," he said.
Doctors said the software professionals worked late hours and to strict deadlines which meant they were burning themselves out at a young age.
"Most of them are between 24 and 30 years of age," said psychiatrist R Srinivas, who has worked at Bangalore's St John's Hospital's psychiatry department for the past
"They work for very long hours alone in a cubicle. When they travel abroad they have to cope up with a new culture. The suffering is more when despite all this there is a fear of being pink-slipped," Srinivas said.
According to market intelligence company International Data Corp, the global information technology industry suffered its worst patch ever in 2002, slumping 2.3 percent.
"Most of the cases coming to our hospital are burn-out cases. But the number of stress-related cases are also rising steadily," Srinivas said.
While some of the stressed-out Bangalore software engineers visit hospitals, many prefer to go in for self-help counselling groups in the city.
Ali Khwaja, director of Helping Hand, a voluntary counselling group, said family members were also joining in to help their stressed relatives.
"Roughly three software engineers are being counselled every day here. A year ago we would have one every three or four days."
"There are a lot of family members especially spouses, girlfriends and fathers coming in for counselling also," Khwaja said.
The lifestyle of software engineers contributes to their stress levels, doctors said. "They are earning too much too early. Being in a group which is comprising of young people without proper responsibility or projecting they have no responsibility is a disadvantage," Khwaja said.
He said there was an outward show of "false freedom and bravado" by software professionals who live life on a fast lane.
"Costly cars, latest mobile phones, brand new apartments and a fat bank balance are taken as symbols of prosperity. When one adds a fragile ego to that list, we can clearly see they are caught up in a strange environment," Khwaja said.
"It is a very materialistic world out there," he said.