New Delhi: Ever since the pandemic hit India over five months back, followed by an unprecedented lockdown, stress levels have been on the rise with 43 percent Indians suffering from depression, according to a new study.

Conducted by GOQii, a smart-tech-enabled preventive healthcare platform, the study surveyed over 10,000 Indians to understand how they have been coping with the new normal.

According to the study, 26 percent of respondents were suffering from mild depression, 11 percent were feeling moderately depressed, and six percent were facing severe symptoms of depression.

"The last five months have been unexpected. The situation has taken a major toll on the mental health of citizens. With the series of lockdowns, anxiety, job cuts, health scares, and the overall volatile environment, stress levels are at an all-time high.

"Copious amounts of stress can lead to depression. With the current lockdown and lifestyles drastically changing, we have seen that 43 percent of Indians are currently plagued with depression and are learning to cope with it," the study said.

To monitor the severity of depression in the respondents, the study relied on a self-administered Patient Health Questionnaire or PHQ-9 (a form of primary care evaluation of mental disorders).

It took into account nine aspects of an individual's daily routine, including interest levels in activities, appetite, sleep cycles, ability to concentrate, and energy levels.

"Our study indicates that an increasing number of people across the country are dealing with mental health issues triggered by the spread of the coronavirus and the consequent lockdown.

"The mounting uncertainty is the basis of the high-stress index which can be controlled with a balanced diet, changes in lifestyle and appropriate sleep patterns," said Vishal Gondal, Founder, and CEO, GOQii.

Those feeling depressed complained of having little interest or pleasure in doing things, feeling hopeless, dealing with erratic sleep cycles, poor eating habits, low levels of energy, low self-esteem, having trouble concentrating, being restless, and having thoughts of self-harm.

"More than 59 percent of the population said they had little pleasure in doing things these days, out of which 38 percent have this feeling on a few days and 9 percent feel so more than half of the days. Nearly 12 percent felt this way almost every day in these times, the study said.

It pointed out that more than 57 percent of the respondents complained of feeling tired or having little energy through "at least some days in the last few weeks".

"At least more than 15 percent have this feeling more than half of the days. This leads to some people sleeping too much while some others have trouble sleeping.

"With the change in lifestyle, approximately half of the population is having trouble with their sleep," the study said.

"At least 7 percent of the population goes through this nearly every day while 33 percent experience it on a few days," it added.

Feeling hopeless, on the other hand, was not so common among the respondents. Only 10 percent of them said they felt "down and depressed" more than half of the days or nearly every day.

The study suggested that adding exercise to one's daily routine could help improve their mental health.

"Exercising can lead to endorphins (the happy hormone) which can help with depression. The more depressed you are, the more likely you are to not workout.

"But, it is important to cajole yourself into doing more things that make you feel happier," it said.

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Toronto, Dec 1: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that his country will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest, as he reached out to the Indian community and expressed concern over the ongoing farmers protest in India against the new farm laws, the first world leader to voice his views on the issue.

Addressing the Indian community in Canada during an online event on Monday to mark the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, Trudeau said he would be remiss if he didn't recognise the "news coming out of india about the protest by farmers."

Thousands of farmers stayed put at various Delhi border points for the sixth consecutive day on Tuesday protesting against the new farm laws, which they fear will dismantle the minimum support price system and corporatise farming.

The farmer unions on Tuesday decided to attend a meeting with the government after they were invited by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar for talks, two days ahead of a scheduled meeting.

"The situation is concerning and we are all very worried about family and friends and I know that is a reality for many of you," Trudeau said in the video posted on his Twitter account.

"Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest. We believe in importance of dialogue and that is why we have reached out through multiple means directly to Indian authorities to highlight our concerns," he said.

He said that this was a moment for all to pull together because of COVID and because of everything else as well.

"We are going to be there to continue to work together as we are there to help each other," he said.

Extending his greetings on Guru Nanak Dev's birth anniversary, he said that it is really an "important time to come together even more so this year than normal because COVID is keeping us all separate."

"Being able to come together and celebrate like this is really wonderful," he said.

Canada is home to a large number of Indian migrants, mostly from Punjab.