The year 2020 has been momentous in the way that it completely transformed the way the masses looked both at wellness and illness. As we approach World Heart Day 2021, it is seen that although there is an increased interest in wellness through preventive practices, this new cohort of ultra-health conscious individuals still lacks critical awareness of specific ailments such as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). According to ICICI Lombard General Insurance, 51% of the respondents believe that CVDs are one of the leading causes of death in India. The survey, undertaken by ICICI Lombard, one of India’s leading private general insurance companies, aims to assess the awareness and understanding of cardiovascular diseases in the post-pandemic world. The study also deep dives into the impact covid-19 had and how people managed mental stress in these times and concerning heart problems.
To gain an in-depth assessment of people’s perception and understanding of CVDs, ICICI Lombard General Insurance has undertaken a PAN India survey with over 1490 respondents, across metros, tier I & tier-II cities, from different age groups, with different working statuses such as partial WFH and complete WFH and included both health insurance owners and non-owners. The survey further revealed that while 77% of people go for a regular overall check-up, only 70% go for a heart check-up, that too just once a year.
On the findings of the health and wellness survey, Mr. Sanjay Datta, Chief – Underwriting, Reinsurance & Claims, at ICICI Lombard said, “Lack of awareness of the ailment coupled with the severity of the impact of the pandemic on our overall health, makes it even more critical to adopt a healthy lifestyle. A heart-healthy lifestyle is more likely to supplement one’s immune system. Along with having an active lifestyle, it is also imperative to look after our mental health as stress anxiety tighten their grip around our fast-paced lives. In a time like this, buying comprehensive health insurance for oneself and family members is an equally important step because medical care is expensive. It creates health and financial security in the minds of people, offering some mental peace.
Awareness, understanding and preparedness among Indians
The survey unearthed that a majority (64%) of Indians are aware of World Heart Day falling on September 29. Although there has been a documented rise in cases of heart ailments among young people (below 45 years of age), less than 2/3rd (63%) of respondents are aware that CVDs today is impacting the younger age group as well. Similarly, awareness is also lower among the 40+ age group (~63%) where vulnerability is highest. The survey also revealed that more than 1/3rd of the people are unaware of the first aid measures that can help in case of cardiac arrest.
Upon quizzing the respondents’ knowledge of the causes of CVD, respondents believed that high levels of cholesterol and hypertension (57%), stress (55%) and obesity (52%) are the top reasons that lead to cardiovascular diseases. However, on the downside, 18% of respondents were totally unaware of these top 3 causes of a heart ailment. Top metro and tier 1 cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad have lower awareness on key causes of heart ailments. Additionally, it was found that when suffering from a heart ailment themselves, men are more aware (50%) of the top 3 causes as compared to women (44%).
The stress of COVID-19 on people’s hearts
Despite the awareness, regular check-ups among heart patients dropped during the pandemic. The proportion of people with heart ailment going for annual check-ups dropped to 77% during the pandemic from a 92% pre-pandemic. As the pandemic-induced lockdown is slowly being lifted, the number has climbed back to 83%. Further looking at individuals suffering from pre-diagnosed heart ailments, 56% contracted COVID themselves and 25% had an infection in the family staying with them. Among all those suffering from a heart ailment, women (69%) showcased a higher vulnerability towards COVID than men (43%). Additionally, people above the age of 40 years with heart ailment have had more COVID infections (64%) as compared to a younger age group, below 41 (53%).
As the pandemic physically affected those with a pre-diagnosed ailment, healthier individuals were faced not just with an increased amount of mental stress and but also with the fear of the risk of a heart attack or stroke, with 3/4th of the people believing that contracting COVID increases the risk of the same. This belief is more prominent among the users of insurance policy (82%) as compared to non-users (63%). Similarly, this belief is greater among those who have contracted COVID themselves (83%) as compared to someone in their family (76%).
As increased stress emerged as the by-product of the pandemic, the survey found that almost 1/3rd of the people stated that their stress level increased post-COVID, 51% of them had contracted COVID themselves while 38% had a family member staying with them who suffered from the viral disease. Digging deeper, the study also found that 2/3rd of the people post contracting COVID faced heart-related issues. The problem seemed to be comparatively lower in metro cities (55%) as compared to tier 1 & 2 cities (~67%).
A new ray of hope from the changing lifestyles
On the bright side, the survey found that more than 1/3rd of the people are making the necessary effort and changes in lifestyle, diet and environment towards ensuring good heart health. This is especially prevalent in the older age group (41-50 years), as they are more cognizant of making those changes as compared to the younger age group. The survey also found that people who believe that COVID-19 has an increased risk for heart attack and stroke (more than 2/5th) have a higher tendency to make positive lifestyle changes as compared to those who don’t (24%). Women here take the lead, as 45% of women as compared to only 32% of men are proactively making necessary changes in their lifestyle to ensure good heart health.
Concluding the finding of the report, Mr. Datta, said “The survey showcased that the top motivators for people to follow a healthy routine are better mental health and awareness on a healthy lifestyle. One’s family’s health also plays a crucial role in maintaining mental health as the survey found that people with a family member suffering from CVD (62%) are more motivated towards improving mental health as compared to those suffering themselves (50%). This paradigm shift in mass perception has resulted in an increased propensity to invest more, financially, physically and mentally, into maintaining the holistic wellbeing of themselves and their loved ones.”