With the lack of social bonding and the lopsided work-life balance accentuating anxiety level among urban Indians in the confinement period and triggering heart disease risks, the number of cardiovascular ailment cases is expected to increase exponentially amid the pandemic.

In fact, the COVID-led restrictions have heightened stress and hypertension among urban people in the absence of social bonding and networking and underscored heart complications in the past few months.

These revelations are found in a study conducted by Bharti AXA General Insurance which attempted to gain a better understanding into the psyche of the urban Indian consumers during the lockdown and its subsequent period.

On the World Heart Day, which aims to create more awareness around this unnoticed phenomenon, the Bharti AXA Health and Wellness Study aims to notify that cardiovascular disease risks are faced with a double-edged threat in the time of COVID-19, when people are more at risk of developing severe forms of the virus and they are not doing enough to seek care for their heart health.

As per an estimate by the World Health Organization, with around 1.7 million deaths in 2016 being attributed to this dreaded ailment, heart disease is the leading cause of deaths in India. Lifestyle, diet, lack of sleep, weight, consumption of alcohol and unhealthy habits such as smoking are some of the immediate causes.

Similarly, according to a medical study, the risk of Indians contracting coronary heart disease is around 3 to 4 times higher than that of Americans, 6 times higher than the Chinese and 20 times higher than the Japanese.

“We are living in unprecedented times. The need to be conscious and wary of our physical health and well-being has never been more crucial than it is now. Evident through this study, stress can be an invisible but major contributor to heart disorders as it is a leading cause of cardiovascular ailments. At Bharti AXA General, we take pride in going the extra mile to understand the challenges and experiences that people face in terms of their health and financial safety during these anomalous times,” said Mr. Sanjeev Srinivasan, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Bharti AXA General Insurance.

Lack of social bonding is creating stress

The research study, which interacted with over 1,000 consumers aged over 18 years and above across multiple cities, revealed that older respondents seemed far more apprehensive about not being able to socialize. Almost 50% of respondents above the age of 45 experienced anxiety due to not being able to meet friends or family members as compared to only 36% of respondents between the age of 18 and 34.

Another aspect that emerged was that respondents from larger cities were comparatively more perturbed about not being able to meet their loved ones as compared to their smaller city counterparts. This was evident as 44% of respondents from Mumbai, 48% of respondents from Delhi and 44% of respondents from Bangalore confirmed being anxious about not meeting their friends or family members as compared to 36% of respondents from Jaipur, 27% of respondents from Lucknow and 35% of respondents from Pune.

Better work life balance in smaller cities

A major finding with regard to individuals work-life balance, 40% of respondents from Ahmedabad, 50% of respondents from Jaipur and 36% of respondents from Lucknow were keen about adhering to strict deadlines about starting and ending their work days as compared to 33% of respondents from Delhi, 28% of respondents from Bangalore and only 27% of respondents from Mumbai. As many as 58% of respondents from Mumbai and 52% of respondents from Bangalore admitted that their working hours had increased due to no clear boundaries. Interestingly, a recent study noted that screen fatigue is causing strain epidemic among kids and work from home employees.

Older individuals seem to have realized importance of maintaining good health

A heartening revelation from this study has been that older individuals are investing in their physical health and well-being. As compared to 44% of those between 18 and 24, almost 60% of those who are over 45 take out time to prepare and eat healthy meals. According to this study, the propensity to step out for a walk while maintaining health norms increases with age. This is evident from 43% of those above the age of 45 admitting to going for a walk regularly.

Men were focused more on their health and well-being than women

While comparing the focus on health among men and women, the study showed that 54% of men responded that they have either started or are maintaining an exercise routine as compared to 50% of women who claimed to be doing the same. About 41% of men were focusing on maintaining relationships virtually as compared to 39% of women. Women who were handling both home and office were experiencing higher fatigue (53%) whereas men handling both these activities were claiming that they seem to have extra time for both work and home related chores (56%).

Srinivasan pointed out that “World Heart Day is a reminder for organizations, communities and individuals to converse about increasing risks of heart ailments in the ongoing pandemic and wants us to be prudent in maintaining a healthy lifestyle amid growing challenges. This not only requires one to follow proper diets, get adequate sleep and avoid unhealthy habits but wants us to be cognizant of our mental health and  lifestyle.’’