According to recent studies by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (Nimhans), young people living in paid bed and breakfasts in the city show high levels of mental disorders and substance abuse.
A study this year of 315 people, mostly in the 18-29 age bracket, found that 10.2% had major depressive episodes (MDE) and 13.9% had generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). And most did not seek professional help.
“This is very high compared to the prevalence in the general population,” says Dr Aravind BA, associate professor of epidemiology at Nimhans who supervised the study. “According to the National Mental Health Survey 2015-2016, only 2.8% of the Indian population suffers from mood disorders including MDE. And only 3.5% suffer from neurotic and mental disorders. stress, including GAD.
GAD involves long-term persistent anxiety about everyday events, impairing the person’s daily functioning. GAD and MDE require professional treatment.
The study participants were all studying or working and had a good level of education. Almost 65% had or were pursuing an undergraduate degree, and 28% a postgraduate degree. Over 88% were single and over 90.5% were migrants. The study was carried out in 45 PG dwellings distributed in the eight zones of the city.
Of those diagnosed in the 2022 study, nearly 72% of those with MDE and 59% of those with GAD were not receiving treatment from a professional. The reasons were stigma or ignorance that they had the disorder.
The study found that many had substance use disorders. Of the participants who consumed alcohol, 10% had either hazardous drinking or alcohol dependence. And 20% of those who used chewing tobacco were significantly addicted to it.
The results of this study are similar to those of a 2021 study of PG residents in the southern zone of Bengaluru, also supervised by Dr. Aravind. In this study, among 251 PG residents, 11.6% had MDE and 16.3% had GAD. Dr. Aravind posits that being young and migrant makes PG residents vulnerable. In India, young people have some of the highest suicide rates, and other studies show that migrants are vulnerable. “So as a corollary, we can say that these two factors make this population more vulnerable. They are away from home, in a new city, working long hours. They may lack emotional support or have loved ones to share their feelings and thoughts with,” he says.
Previous studies show that ‘uprooting’ and peer pressure make young people who move away from home more vulnerable, says Dr N Girish, professor of epidemiology at Nimhans. “They have been transplanted into a new environment, but are not fully part of it. And they have a harder time resisting peer pressure. Critical decision-making falls entirely to them, without any family support or control.
The study calls on mental health professionals and policy makers in Bengaluru to address the concerns of PG residents. While India currently has national and district mental health programs, Dr. Aravind stresses the need for an urban mental health program that will use different strategies to address heterogeneous and vulnerable populations in cities.