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News : Diabetes Rising Among Call Centre Employees
July 15, 2014 -- The burgeoning Indian BPO industry may spell good news for the nation’s economic health, but for the lakhs of young men and women who work in this sector, it is translating into a potentially-fatal occupational hazard.
Doctors across the city are reporting an increasing number of patients with diabetes or pre-diabetic condition who work in call centres spread through Delhi/NCR.
Most of them are young graduates in their early 20s, working night shifts for years altogether and incapacitated by obesity, hypertension, infertility and other lifestyle-related problems.
Dr Ashok Jhingan, chairman, Delhi Diabetes Research Centre, has recently concluded a study on patients he has received in the past 30 years.
This is probably the only study done in India relating call centre work to the lifestyle ailment.
The senior diabetologist says, "I started noticing this trend about three decades back. I was getting a noticeable number of youngsters working in BPO units coming in with complaints of weight loss, exhaustion, frequent urination and sexual-health issues. On investigation we realised they had diabetes and put them on medication."
"Thirty years later, I see that those who switched professions on my advice have gained control over their diabetes. Those who were able to change shifts have also managed to reduce the symptoms, while the third category which did not budge is suffering from advanced diabetes and its co-related problems now."
Dr Pankaj Aneja, Senior Consultant, Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Disorders, Fortis, Shalimar Bagh, says this is a result of disturbed sleep pattern, continued consumption of junk food, stress and lack of exercise.
"Our inbuilt body clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, adjusts to the extent of occasional disturbances like an intercontinental flight leading to jet lag," he explains, "But when this disruption goes on for months and years, it throws the body completely out of gear. The result is hormones controlling sugar, fats and the fertility cycle becoming deranged, ultimately, leading to diabetes."
Dr Sujeet Jha, HOD, Endocrinology at Max Super Speciality Hospital, adds such cases are coming in irrespective of whether one has a family history of diabetes or not.
"If you don’t have a genetic tendency then the disease may show up by late 30s or early 40s. But in cases of a family history, diabetes is precipitating as soon as 25-30 years. We get such cases in our Saket and Gurgaon hospitals, due to the proximity to call centres, all the time."
Doctors say it is not sufficient for just the call centre employees to take preventive steps but the employers must take responsibility too. Dr Jhingan says, "These BPO units make so much money out of exploiting these youngsters, the onus for protecting them lies with the companies too. In the developed world, they have gym facilities and a mandatory one hour of gymming for every employee. We must also do that."
Dr Sujeet says it’s like "fire safety and protecting women from harassment." "These units should make it a point to provide healthy food at their canteens and no tea and coffee but only fruit juice. At the same time, they should bar smoking which aggravates diabetes."
"Regular health camps and diet sessions should also be organised for call centre workers. This is the only way to arrest this worrying trend."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2014