High stress levels are driving IT professionals into indulging in unsafe sex practices, according a study published in the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The study carried out on 20- to 59-year-olds by doctors from the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Department of Epidemiology at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that people working in information technology (IT) and information technology enabled services (ITeS) sectors faced a high risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI). Their behaviour stemmed from stress related to the job and incomes, the study said.
The study, published on December 17, says, “Workers with high physical demand leading to strain had six times chance of having paid sex in last three months. Employees with moderate income-related stress had two-and-a-half times chance of not using protection during their last sexual intercourse with their regular partner.”
“We are deadline-bound on a daily basis. During moments of high stress and frustration, control may not be possible. Employees tend to get closer to co-workers as a major portion of the day is spent in the office. Such behaviour is inevitable,” says the SAP consultant.
Linking mental health issues and risk-taking, Dr Prabha S Chandra, professor of psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) said people may feel like relieving stress by resorting to what was available at hand. “Workers could resort to internet addiction, porn addiction, smoking and alcohol. A lot of stress gets transmitted into these habits because they just want a momentary high,” she said.
Given the nature of workplace, there are more opportunities for casual encounters, noted Dr Chandra who had also studied high-risk sexual behaviour and sensation-seeking among alcohol users. Varun Advani (name changed), another IT professional, however, said job stress need not directly be related to casual and unprotected sexual relationships. “In an IT setting one can find many people at work. But it need not just be at work. There are people who seek relief from outside as well,” he said. In fact, the study found that workers with high stress showed six times more likelihood of having paid sex in the last three months.
Further, he said that the physical environment also played a part. “IT companies are huge. There are many young people working. It is natural. However, it is not true that unprotected sex is common. Most people take precautions,” he asserted.
Shift work in IT companies worsened the situation, the study points out. As it puts greater stress on employees, those suffering high stress had 60 percent lower chance of using protection compared to those with low stress even with their regular partners.
Dr Giridhara R Babu, associate professor at PHFI who spearheaded the study suggested that prevention programmes are required for young professionals in the IT/ITeS sector to mitigate risk behaviours. “It is important to improve awareness in promoting safe sex practices such as condom use and how to lessen high-risk behaviours in IT/ITeS professionals by addressing work-related stress factors,” he said.
Dr Babu suggests intervention programmes targeting work sites and also groups of single, divorced and widowed younger persons. “It is important to focus on subgroups with multiple partners who may be potential transmitters of sexually transmitted infections,” he said.
According to evidence, jobs involving high mobility have people having high-risk sexual behaviour. This includes long-distance truck drivers and their assistants, who are at high-risk and play an important role in transmission of STIs.
The study was carried out among 1,071 employees across 21 software industry units in Bangalore.
It was also found that 74.3 per cent did not use a condom with their regular partner. Further, six per cent of men and 13 per cent of the women reported often having intercourse with casual partners in the last three months.
Suresh Ram (name changed), 25, agrees.
Entering his fifth year in his company, he feels stress sometimes pushed co-workers into seeking relief in casual affairs at work.