Indian Women Are The Most Stressed

Posted: August 2, 2012
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According to the Harvard Business Review, a Nielsen survey of 6,500 women across 21 countries, Indian women are the most stressed in the world today. 87% of Indian women said they felt stressed most of the time, and 82% reported that they had no time to relax.

According to this article, “Not surprisingly, the most stress is felt among women between 25 and 55 years of age, who are trying to balance demanding careers with obligations at home…Traditional family structures have a disproportionate effect on Indian women, even those who are urban, college-educated professionals, and especially for those who are the first generation in their families to have a career. Indian women are pulled by demands from relatives as they attempt to conform to the paradigm of “ideal daughter,” “ideal wife,” and “ideal daughter-in-law.” Among the many interviews conducted…it wasn’t at all rare to hear of successful professionals who woke up at 4:30 a.m. to make breakfast and lunch for children and parents-in-law, put in a full day at work, then returned home to clean up after the extended family and prepare dinner.”

why are Indian women stressed?According to the Economic Times (June 29, 2011), Future Brands CEO Santosh Desai gives another reason for Indian women being stressed out- 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 many of these women are feeling stress which is self inflicted.”

The study also says that Indian women are among the more optimistic compared to their counterparts in the developed nations. While 58% said they had more opportunities to reduce stress compared to their mothers, 78% believed that their daughters would have more opportunities than them. More than three-fourth of those surveyed gave a lot of importance to saving for their children’s education.

I must add here that according to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Men and women report different reactions to stress, both physically and mentally. Findings suggest that while women are more likely to report physical symptoms associated with stress, they are doing a better job connecting with others in their lives and, at times, these connections are important to their stress management strategies… Though they report similar average stress levels, women are more likely than men to report that their stress levels are on the rise. They are also much more likely than men to report physical and emotional symptoms of stress. When comparing women with each other, there also appears to be differences in the ways that married and single women experience stress.”

Among the various findings, the APA found that
“Married women report higher levels of stress than single women, with one-third (33 percent) reporting that they have experienced a great deal of stress in the past month (8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale) compared with one in five (22 percent) of single women. Similarly, significantly more married women report that their stress has increased over the past five years (56 percent vs. 41 percent of single women). Single women are also more likely than married women to say they feel they are doing enough to manage their stress (63 percent vs. 51 percent).”

The APA also says that
“Married women are more likely than single women to report they have experienced the following due to stress in the past month: feeling as though they could cry (54 percent vs. 33 percent), feeling irritable or angry (52 percent vs. 38 percent), having headaches (48 percent vs. 33 percent) and experiencing fatigue (47 percent vs. 35 percent).”

I can’t end without quoting a stay-at-home mom, who, while applying for a job, said this about her job skills,

“Nursing, housekeeping, chef, teacher, bio-hazard cleanup, fight referee, taxi driver, secretary, tailor, personal shopping assistant and therapist.”

No wonder the stress!

Pic credit: HikingArtist.com (Used under a Creative Commons license)

I am a former bureaucrat, and have worked a lot on gender issues, disaster management

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10 Comments


  1. “Santosh Desai gives another reason for Indian women being stressed out- 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 many of these women are feeling stress which is self inflicted.””

    It is the perception that an education and emancipation has given one more control over one’s choices, and a wider variety of choices, while having much the same status as women of previous generations, that creates the stress in a big way.

    So outsiders see this professionally educated, upper middle class woman, but do not know the nitty-gritties of her personal life, and think she has no stress, or no business having stress. Unfortunate.

    • I agree and would also like to add that the well-educated professional woman today also has to deal with jealousy and negativity of her older, female relatives that adds to the stress.

  2. I believe, today’s Indian women (Aaj ki naari) are struggling between the traditional upbringing and modern outlook.

    Our traditions and family values have taught us to keep our family and household responsibilities as an priority.

    And with education we have developed an independent identity for ourselves, which has not only made us financially sufficient, but has created a need for personal growth, aspirations & goals.

    Hence this chrysalis phase, is going to be stressful. But eventually we will come out with flying color, keeping a beautiful balance of our traditions and personal growth with minimum stress.

    So cheers!!! to the new day Indian women.

  3. It seems unfair to say that the stress is self-inflicted. In some sense, all stress could be said to be self-inflicted, because the reaction to stress is personal, but aren’t the circumstances external? In the case of the urban Indian women, it looks like she “has it all”, but the truth is that the burden of “balance” falls mainly on women, and most women are pushing themselves to do more than they can.

  4. Another write-up on how to get out of that 87% would be so much more helpful!!! 😀

  5. “Santosh Desai gives another reason for Indian women being stressed out- 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 many of these women are feeling stress which is self inflicted.””

    No wonder that such a comment came from a man! A man would have absolutely no idea that despite educating our daughters and allowing our daughters-in-law to continue their careers, we don’t really give them much control over their lives. We still expect them to get married and stay married, to keep their families happy single-handedly, to juggle work, home and family without any help from the husband or in-laws and then take responsibility for their stress because it is “self inflicted”. This is another instance of “she asked for it” – she wanted and education and a career, now she is stressed because of the increased responsibilities. She ASKED for it!!

    • Completely agree with Ceekay’s comments here! the quote sounds as if the woman is now more in trouble coz she has chosen it for herself. The pt is that she is stioll expected to play the old role of caretaker at home alongwith the breadwinner of family.,.even though the man gets away with being just the breadwinner of family. This is in the case of married women.
      and single women like me…hahahhaa..society adds to the pressure to get married to them and makes their life miserable :)))

    • I agree with Aks. Education and job opportunities for women has only added to society’s greed. Earlier this used to be fulfilled with dowry, but now snagging a working woman for marriage does the job. But even after taking care of the money part, the poor woman has no respite!!
      After all she is “Bhartiya Nari” who can not be excused from her primary responsibility of serving her in-laws and husband when she gets back home from her daily grind at work. 🙂

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