Depression in Corporate India: Statistics, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Akhil Mehta, better known as the brain behind the popular Twitter handle @AapChutiyeHain, committed suicide. He was 27. Known for his witty & sarcastic humour and the manner in which he questioned our society’s (frequently illogical) beliefs, the news of his death sent shock waves across the social media.

Despite having over 50,000 followers, fans and friends, none could help him deal with his condition and prevent him from taking this extreme step. While some attributed it to the backlash he was getting from the powerful lobby that he had ridiculed through his posts, most fans probably had no clue about the depression that was gnawing him up from the inside.

This isn’t an isolated case. Last year, the relative (and a common friend) of someone who posted MBA queries on our site reached out to say that this person had also been suffering from depression for several years and had recently taken his own life.

On the other hand, while quite a few such stories end in tragedy, there’s a silver lining to it as well. There are folks who’ve fought and overcome depression.

We worked with a few very bright MBA applicants with impressive credentials (read IIT degree) who had successfully managed to deal with depression and were now looking forward to a new professional and personal path.

We asked them if they’d be willing to share their stories anonymously as it would be very inspiring for others who are in the same situation that these candidates were in not too long back.

However, none were ready to do so, and we can understand why. It’s a phase they’ve left behind and it must be pretty hard for them to revisit those memories.

But MBA jobs are among the most stressful. The stress starts with MBA applications, extends to the job hunting phase and continues till retirement. We thought it was high time we recognised the risks such jobs carry and made our readers aware of them.

So we started digging around the internet to see what we could write about that would help other Indian executives and professionals who might be suffering in silence.

Depression in Corporate India | Statistics

Depression in Corporate IndiaWhile doing research on statistics related to depression in India, we came across a survey published a few weeks back by The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

The revelations were startling.

Out of every 10 Indian professionals surveyed across the metropolitan cities, 4 suffered from general anxiety disorder or depression.

If the results of the survey are to be extrapolated, a huge number of Indian workers put on a smiling mask to hide their pain as they head to work each day.

In the list of the top diseases that affect corporate executives, depression (42%) ranks at the top, followed by obesity (23%), high blood pressure (9%) and diabetes (8%). The top 3 cities where professionals were the most prone to depression were Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai, in that order.

Roughly half the respondents admitted to feeling exhausted too often, over a quarter said that headaches were a common feature of their working lives.

What’s more worrying is the age distribution of the respondents. Over half (55% to be precise) were under the age of 30 and a quarter were between 30 and 40 years.

Most international MBA aspirants from India are under 30 years. They are ambitious and competitive. They want the best from their careers in their most productive years.

If that describes you too, then keep in mind the intangible price that you may need to pay for the success you are chasing.

You don’t need to take any radical decision to quit the corporate world. But do listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Slow down if you need to.

What are the symptoms of depression?

There’s a difference between being occasionally feeling low, and chronic depression. But for most, it’s difficult to differentiate between the symptoms. The earlier you do, the easier it would be to control the damage.

The symptoms of clinical depression include:

  • Feeling angry and irritable: everyone gets on your nerves for minor reasons
  • Feelings of guilt and blaming yourself for (perceived) failure
  • Memory and concentration issues, lack of focus
  • Lack of interest in day-to-day activities: even pleasurable activities like hobbies, sex, sports, music seem uninteresting
  • Changes in the appetite: not feeling hungry or the reverse – binge-eating, accompanied with a sudden change in body weight
  • Feeling there’s no hope, and nobody to help
  • Changes in the sleep pattern: insomnia (lack of sleep) or the reverse (over-sleeping)
  • Chronic exhaustion: always feeling drained of energy
  • Body aches and pains that won’t go away
  • Not feeling that your life is worthwhile, including in reckless behaviour (speeding, binge drinking, overdosing on drugs)

While some of these may be part and parcel of our stressful daily lives, if you are even remotely thinking of that last point, please reach out immediately to someone (a relative, friend or doctor) who can help.

What are the causes of depression?

While the symptoms of depression are important to keep track of, it is also important to know what might be triggering them.

Depression can be caused due to many reasons.

  • Employment issues (not having a job, being in the wrong job)
  • Life experiences (traumatic events in childhood)
  • Financial ill-health
  • Substance abuse (drugs, alcohol)
  • Medical history of depression in the family
  • Chronic health problems
  • Relationship issues (marriage, love affair)
  • Isolation and lack of social support

Depression treatment

Rather than trying to fight a losing battle as a one-(wo)man army, it helps to get support from your near and dear ones. Here are some depression treatments that can help the milder forms.

  • Change to a healthier lifestyle. Regular exercise has been known to be quite effective in releasing endorphins and other chemicals that can have a positive impact on the mood.
  • Regular sleep, eating good nutritious food and reducing stress levels can also be beneficial.
  • Initiating a hobby or simply by opening up to a more socially active life can also help.
  • Being stuck in an incompatible job can be addressed with career counselling.

However, the other causes that aren’t as simple to address could need medical intervention. For clinical depression, simple ideas and solutions may not work. Medicines can help. But that doesn’t mean you starting popping anti-depressants indiscriminately and become addicted to them. Your doctor would be in a better position to evaluate your condition and suggest an action plan.

Read these related posts:
Is your work life balance suffering?
15 Stress management tips to reduce stress at work

Disclaimer: We aren’t experts in this area and our views may not reflect medical realities. This article is just to create awareness about the condition. If you or someone you know suffers from depression, please take expert guidance (on sites like YourDost.com) rather than relying on internet based solutions.

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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

18 Comments

  1. Sanidhya says:

    Nice article depicting the reality of corporate world.
    I totally agree with the point of maintaining work/life balance.

    Being expert is not only the thing, sometimes just an indication solves the problem
    Thank you and keep up the good work

  2. Tanmoy Ray says:

    Really good one Sameer. People should get aware of this alarming issue!

  3. priya says:

    Hi Sameer,

    i am just 2 depressed and not able to do my job i started hating my job
    I have done my be in electronics and later i did cdac cource of 6 months to get into IT feild (i got placed with a reputed it company and now working in banking domain
    as i was new to IT feild i didnt now what work is expected .the team i was put was totally like a support work and due to fear that i wont be able to do job i did asked for change
    now i have 2.5 months experience in same organisation and i am worried to switch job .I am not satified in this job i want some thing big i dreamt of opening my own company.as well after BE
    i did get chance to go for MS but due to money issue i didt took admission and went for cdac.the higer study egar is still left in me.There another problem after getting job got aboyfreind
    which is totally opposite to my releigion i informed home and both of families are not agreeing .but my family is putting presurre on me to get married which id dont want to do
    i have given many gov exam so that i can be away from family atleast and pursue my career.so i thought of doing MS again but then after MS i have to do 9 to 6 job which i dont want
    i want some thing big reputed more money so i figured out MBA i am just running from MBA/MS not settling for either of one .i have given CAT and applied for gate as well please help .

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      Many fresh graduates have big ambitious at the time of completing their degrees. But it’s also important to keep the expectations in check and consider the ground realities.

      Very few freshers are able to launch their own company. Most who do aren’t able to keep it afloat for long.

      So don’t worry that you weren’t able to accomplish it. There’ll be many more opportunities to give it a shot.

      On the other personal issue that you are facing, I don’t have an answer. But here’s what another couple in a similar position did – MBA application for married couple from India

      Again, I’m not the person to say what they did was right or not, and whether it’ll work for you.

  4. shaswata says:

    Sir , I am working in an IT MNC for last 1.7 years. But I am not happy with it as i dont want to sit infront of computer long time although i like coding and sometimes i feel ignored by seniors in my job. I ahve a ego problem that if anybody scold me or doubt in my potential i cant take it. because of this I am getting depressed all the time. I want to study HR in TISS and trying for it. Basically I like to motivate and interact with people and giving speeches from stages(Specially motivation). Last time i had cleared the written exam and couldnt clear the final round. Am i on the right track??? I am also a passionate altruist.. Please guide me what should i do.

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      Shaswata, Any time you are working for someone (whether it’s a boss or a client), there’s bound to be an evaluation. More so in a formal office environment where not everyone is supportive.

      And it’s impossible to please everyone every single time. Once that realisation happens, it’s easier to see things in perspective.

      The good part is you’ve found out avenues of interest. Public speaking scares the s*** out of most people, and you seem to enjoy it. That’s a strength for you. If channelised well, there’s a lot you could do with it.

      However, you’d still have folks in the audience who may not enjoy it as much as the others.

  5. Naren says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I am very much frustrated with my current job as it has long working hours at remote locations and least work life balance.

    I am 25 yrs old. Currently working in a leading construction company as a Sr Engg.

    My profile
    10th -90.60% CBSE
    12th -88.4% CBSE
    B.E- 86%
    M.Tech- 8.4 cgpa (IIT)

    Work exp- 1.5 yrs

    Yes i have masters from IIT . But lately i feel disinterested in my career in construction industry and would like to pursue an MBA.

    I have a strong liking towards finance and operations. Worked with diverse teams in my current role.

    Kindly advice me which will be better to take up- CAT or GMAT considering my age and profile. Is it too late for me to pursue an MBA from good B schools in India. Also can u advice me which would be better for my profile a regular 2 yr MBA or 1 yr EMBA. I would like to study in India or Singapore.

    Thanks

  6. Kumar says:

    Hi,
    I have completed my B.Tech 2010 from Computer Science after the completion. I have prepared competition examination but i have no crack desired exam. After i will very disappoint and searching the jobs in private sector i get job in 2013 in the private sector but it is not suite my profile
    but due to family problem. i am continue this jobs i want change my profile in the my stream.
    Please anybody advice me which technology is best for my future that is provide my carrier growth and salary package.

  7. Oracle says:

    This time you touched the most sensitive of chords @Sameer.

    But hey… Most of the Facebook and LinkedIn profiles I come across don’t seem to corroborate with what you just said. That:

    “Out of every 10 Indian professionals surveyed across the metropolitan cities, 4 suffered from general anxiety disorder or depression.”

    So, what kind of world are we living in? At one hand, we have endless chain of Facebook profiles that tells us that all-is-ALWAYS-well and that life is too rosy to have space for any kind of depression. On the other hand, we have LinkedIn profiles, where everyone seems to be doing great in their careers.

    And then suddenly, this depression statistics of corporate India hits us in the teeth from behind? We were not expecting it to be that bad … .or, surreptitious, we were?

    What went wrong suddenly? What left us in this state of angst? What’s the solution then?

    Too many things, and most notably, our unbridled ambitions. We let too many things to distract us and override our career goals, and, sometimes even, our emotions. Most of it are fueled by the “success” stories we find on LinkedIn and FB.

    I have been stressing one point repeatedly on this site:

    That world has grown into an increasingly complex place to live and work, and that one needs to spend substantial time and effort to succeed in any one sphere.

    There is no quick success, even if it seems contradictory to FB and LinkedIn profiles we come across everyday. And distractions are our worst enemy.

    Dedicate yourself to any one Job (finance, engg. IT) for couple of years. Success may not be evident in 3-4 years time. Keep toiling for 8-10 years. Only when you are able to push the barriers in your chosen field, success will ensue. Avoid distractions and menial frustrations all these while.

    Avoid wasting time on Facebook and LinkedIn. Studies have correlated time spent on FaceBook with depression syndromes.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/04/08/new-study-links-facebook-to-depression-but-now-we-actually-understand-why/

    And finally,do check this video for some fun:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgfZFH2s7OU

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      Among the millions of surveys that are conducted each year, those that get more than their average share of interest are usually the ones that have dramatic outcomes.

      But, there’s not much to tell us how credible and rigorous their methodology was, whether the sample chosen was big and representative enough of the general population and many such questions.

      So, rather than get swayed by one survey, it’s important to take the primary message that it conveys and move on.

      Your points on Facebook are well-taken. It’s a superficial, make-believe world, where people only share the image that they want to convey. What happens once they log out is a different story.

      Excellent suggestion on managing the career. It requires focus and patience though, two things that are in short supply nowadays.

      Btw, great article and video. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Rocky S says:

    Hi, everyone. I m 31 n a mechanical engineer.I dont hv any good job experience n need a job. I hv a good managerial skill,?
    n m the best among with the workers..I m hardworking, honest,loyal, n dedicated to my work n future. Do any body suggest me wat to do nw to make a hike in my career…?

  9. amlan sinha says:

    hi sammer, i am 31 year old working as a journalist in the English Daily Newspaper ‘The Hitavada’ for last 5 years. Earlier i was admitted in engineering college but due to some family crisis and health problems i could not continue it and drooped it after two years. than i did Bachelor of Journalism from Pt Ravishankar Shukla University Raipur and ow working as journalist with decent salary package. it is my dream since 2010 to do MBA program from IIM. Can i do it or looking for distance or part time MBA. is the full time regular MBA from IIM will not build up my career.
    lease help me
    thanks and regards
    amlan

  10. ashique amin says:

    I am a mechanical engineer( B TECH+ DIPLOMA) .My inclination was always towards business, so i landed up in SALES & MARKETING of machinery sales in an INDUSTRIAL BOILER firm. But after 5 months of job and looking at the status of my seniors i am not sure if i have landed in the correct profession. All i need is great bucks at the second year of my job and an expertise with excellence in whatever field i m working on. Due to lack of exposure i feel like a fish in a closed vessel.
    Sir i have seen ‘sales engineers’ shifting trades which is making me hopeless?
    please advice if a career in sales engineer can give me a safe career or should i quit now itself?
    If safe, Can u advise me any training facility which imparts sales and marketing skill enhancing workshops in DELHI?

  11. Riya says:

    Hi, am a S/W engineer (BE,Computer Science) (Exp: 5 yrs) but feeling less motivated & i am less attached to gadgets as well . I am willing to study something which deals with Life Science & technology n work in some research dept. Hence, got a thought of pursuing ME in Bio technology and change my career. Is it a gud idea to quit job n study Biotech? Does it have a good scope? Will it become necessary to do Phd as well? Will my previous experience as s/w engg be counted? And wat ll be the right proceedure to prepare and get seat in a gud college in Bangalore.

  12. Prateek says:

    Hi Sir,

    I am bit confused about my decision and goal of the lyf, actually i passed my engineering in 2014 was not placed so i took BPO job in MNC, and started working there, i was in non voice support and was enjoying the challenges their, but the due to engineer tag i was not much satisfied with it. I got a chance to get into the IT sector with an MNC as Software trainee but for last 6 month, i am trying to understand the career path in the IT field but i am not able to find a way. I had words with my parents they want me to prepare for Govt exam as well as i am studying distance MBA. But due to fixed time 9 to 7 job in the company i am not getting much time to study or concertrate on the path. i even compare both the stream BPO and IT, so i sometime find BPO as more stable than IT, but i have heard it can offer max package of 4 lakh, but it do offer growth till AVP post i have seen in my last company. I was enjoying that job more than IT. what should i do, i have offer to join it again at 4 lakh package. which is more than my present. but confused should i go for BPO and take night shift , prepare for govt or continue with same

    Please Suggest me
    need to decide as soon as possible

  13. Hitesh says:

    Hi,I am doing BCA from GGSIPU and got job at infosys @ 15000 pm.i got 78% in bca.I will be giving cat in 2016 and i am targeting only IIM ABCL FMS XLRI JBIMS.I want to do job for 2-3 yrs after MBA in india and then start my own business in India.So will these top tier indian institutes good enougu for my career or do i need to get us mba provided I am 100% sure of being an entrepreneur .Also i am IT background which i hate also i don’t want job offered to me by Infosys.

  14. kanu says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I need your guidance as I am in a confused state. I have around 5 years of work experience in corporate world in finance background. If I talk of my education, I have done bcom, mcom and mfc from DU. I had started CFA but later left in between.Initially I was doing really well in my job..getting good appraisals and appreciation for my work. But lately I stopped enjoying my work. I started to have an empty feeling..like I was not doing something worthwhile and that it was not increasing my skills. My performance started to gt bad and also started to have health issues. I did not want to buttering of my boss. I realized, this is something I didn’t enjoy. so I left the job. Not knowing what to do next but being sure that this something I did not want to do.
    I have always been creatively inclined. i was actively involved with employee engagement teams throughout my whole career. I have also been involved with social service, for very long time. I like helping people. I also like to interact with people. I have always been good at painting and creative activities.
    I need your guidance what do you suggest should I do…should I pursue executive mba in HR, or should I go for interior designing from abroad or should I start my own entrepreneurial venture related to crafts. Please guide.

    Thanks.

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