Wellness has become a ubiquitous word. Individuals, governments, and companies are all talking about it, so much in fact that the wellness movement is now a $4.2 trillion economy, according to the Global Wellness Institute.
While wellness is an individual pursuit, it is highly influenced by our physical, social, and cultural environments; which is why governments and companies are increasingly focusing on addressing wellness. However, for these efforts to be effective, it’s important that individuals and organizations realize that “wellness is not a passive or static state, but rather an active pursuit that is associated with intentions, choices, and actions as we work toward an optimal state of health and wellbeing.”
Wellness has become a dominant lifestyle value. But, what’s behind the growth and proliferation of wellness across sectors, countries, and industries?
In a recently published white paper, the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) examines the four macro forces that are driving consumer demand of wellness offerings (physical, mental, environmental, spiritual, social, and emotional).
Suggested Reading: “How to Address the 7 Dimensions of Wellness in the Workplace”
4 Major Forces Behind the Growth of Wellness
- The World’s Population Is Growing Sicker, Lonelier, and Older
According to reports, over the last 50 years 71% of deaths worldwide could have been prevented. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease have become the leading causes of global death. 80% of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, as well as 40% of cancer could have been prevented by addressing key lifestyle factors.
Individuals are increasingly becoming aware of this fact and taking active steps to increase their physical activity, adopt healthier diets, moderate their use of tobacco and alcohol, and actively engage in activities that help them reduce stress. In other words, this increased awareness is leading to overall healthier lifestyle choices.
This, however, is not only being driven by physical health factors, but also by the growing loneliness epidemic. According to the GWI the last five to ten years have brought growing awareness of the mounting global mental health crisis. “Policymakers and physicians in developed countries are also worried about the rise of loneliness and isolation as a public health epidemic.”
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This has lead to the gradual de-stigmatization of addressing mental health, and individuals are increasingly seeking help in wellness activities like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. However, loneliness is further exacerbated by the fact that the world’s population is aging. In fact, by 2020, adults over the age of 65 will outnumber children under age 5.
This is a challenge because “with aging populations comes the rise of chronic disease, as well as the risk of loneliness as seniors lose mobility and independence.”
- The Environmental Crisis Is Also a Health Crisis
Research has found that environmental degradation and its effects also cause immediate, direct, severe, and widespread harm to human health and wellbeing. Some environmental factors affecting human health include pollution and air quality, light and noise pollution, modern agricultural practices, and human dependence on motor vehicles.
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According to GWI, “pollution is now the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death.” Meanwhile, indoor air pollution can increase incidences of asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases. Emerging research has also found that “sick-building” syndrome can be worse than outdoor pollution.
Furthermore, “constant background of artificial sounds, lights, and distractions in the built environment makes it hard to find mental respite, raises stress levels, affects sleep, and even has physical health impacts.”
- “The ABC of Acoustics: 3 Ways to Reduce Noise in the Workplace”
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- “11 Tricks to Maximize Natural Light in the Workplace”
Not only is the environment affecting our health, but our choices around food and mobility are as well. Modern, industrialized farming systems and food production have led to unhealthy, nutrition-poor, highly-processed food choices. Furthermore, the vast majority of cities favor motor vehicles over pedestrians, which reduces daily exercise opportunities as people choose to drive rather than walk or bike to work or other places.
- Health Systems Are Failing to Keep up, while the Economic Burden Rises
The GWI believes that “healthcare systems in countries across the development spectrum are ill-prepared to address the global crisis of noncommunicable disease and mental illness.” This increased burden of disease is affecting individuals, families, businesses, and governments.
“Failure to address these global health crises creates an enormous economic burden – not only from direct medical costs, but also from tremendous social and business costs that reduce productivity, shrink the labor force, and dampen economic growth.” In fact, the World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health estimate that major chronic diseases and mental illness will result in cumulative $47 trillion in lost economic output from 2011 to 2030.
- Consumer Demographics, Value Systems, and Lifestyles Are Rapidly Evolving Toward Wellness
Last but not least, evolving demographics, lifestyles, and value systems are increasing the demand and interest in wellness modalities, products, and services. Urbanization combined with a growing middle class has created a new lifestyle that has many unhealthy aspects (car dependency, processed foods, sedentary lives, stress, loneliness, etc.). To counterbalance this issue, people are increasingly demanding access to wellness offerings and lifestyle choices, especially younger generations who prefer experiences over consumption and are highly conscious of their social and environmental impact.
Another key element impacting lifestyle choice is technology. Though it has had a positive impact in many areas, technology has adverse effects on human health:
- Reduced sleep quality and quantity
- Inactivity, which leads to obesity and other physiological effects from prolonged sitting and screen time
- Reduced mental health (screen time and social media have been linked to anxiety, depression, and childhood cognitive development and attention)
- Reduced quality of social relationships and increased loneliness
- Distraction and safety
- Reduced productivity and increased amounts of stress.
On the bright side, awareness of these negative impacts has led to people recognizing their need to disconnect, slow down, and be more mindful.
The wellness economy is projected to continue to grow over the next five years, especially in areas like real estate wellness, wellness tourism, workplace wellness, and spa offerings.Share this article