Indian women most stressed in the world: Nielsen survey

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This photo was taken on January 13, 2011 in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh (http://www.flickr.com/photos/olivier-thao/5463144378/)

NEW DELHI: In the most buoyant, confident and optimistic part of the world, life isn’t exactly happy and stress-free for half its citizens.

The latest study done by Nielsen reveals that Indian women are the most stressed in the world today. An overwhelming 87% of Indian women said they felt stressed most of the time, and 82% had no time to relax.

The survey, conducted early this year, covered 6,500 women from 21 developed and developing countries like Sweden, the US, the UK, France, the BRICS economies. It was conducted online among women (over 18 years of age) and cut across social and income class.

What’s causing such a high level of stress in India? At a very broad level, Indian companies and workplaces have become so 21st century with all the challenges and opportunities it offers.

Unfortunately, Indian society hasn’t kept pace with social expectations at homes changing little. “It is this contrast, this conflict that is causing the stress,” says the sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan.

The missing social support and the physical infrastructure (think crA”ches, reliable househelp, etc) are building a lot of stress, especially for the working women.

Future Brands CEO Santosh Desai gives another reason. Earlier women had little control over their lives and at least in urban India they have gained control with education and jobs. “So while their sense of helplessness has decreased, many of these women are feeling stress which is self inflicted,” he says.

Many of these women are the first generation in their families stepping out to work. And most strive to maintain continuity with the roles their mothers played at home-managing house, relationships and rearing children. “They have added a lot of extra work. But subtracted very little. It is this work overload that is creating stress for them,” adds Desai.

The biggest stress is felt among women of 25-55 years of age, typically married where expectations from women have risen-and where conflicts between what all women must do too has surged.

Inside companies, there is this whole rhetoric about equality and no sexual discrimination, at homes things aren’t exactly equal. While being assertive at workplace is important, doing so at home is a no-no. Networking, business travel and late nights are critical to push forth one’s careers but returning home on time is critical to live up to the expectations at home.

Perhaps this is the first time that a large number of first generation women are joining the workforce, and they are “neither societally trained nor individually prepared” to deal with the situation, a reason why they feel stressed.

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