Worried sick about work

Last month, a 34-year-old patient came to Vivek Nangia, director of the department of pulmonary and infectious diseases at Delhi’s Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital. His complaint: low-grade fever and a persistent cough. Tests confirmed he had tuberculosis. But Dr Nangia’s diagnosis didn’t end there. The patient, who works in a mid-management role in a multinational firm, wanted to get to the root of the problem. “Doc, why did this happen?” Dr Nangia recalls the patient asking. Further probing showed the patient had a demanding job, stayed out late and, more often than not, ate poorly. He had a suppressed immune response due to stress. Dr Nangia’s approach and diagnosis is not rare—diseases brought on by the effects of stress are so common now that a whole interdisciplinary branch of medicine, psychoneuroimmunology, is devoted to it. Dr Nangia says he sees one or two cases daily where the root cause is stress, due either to work or other life situations. Most of the patients who come to him have ailments triggered or worsened by stress and are in the 20-35 age group, usually in corporate jobs.