Responsibility for healthcare is increasingly being pushed onto the public. With greater concern over the social and economic costs of both dealing with and not dealing with health, governments around the world are nudging us to take better care of ourselves – creating challenges and opportunities to shape the global health and wellbeing landscape.
The consumer response
As consumers begin to take on more responsibility for their own health, there’s a recognition that emotional and spiritual needs are as important as physical health. This holistic approach to wellness has led consumers to adopt a wide range of measures with the aim of making themselves feel happy, healthy and strong.
Global MONITOR (see p60) data reveals that 52 per cent of people take steps to improve their health, regardless of whether they feel ill or not: and we’re now seeing that this preventative mindset is on the rise across the majority of global markets. However, despite this, fewer than half of consumers worldwide say they are satisfied with their emotional and physical wellbeing.
Understanding consumers’ approaches to health can be complicated, as they’re often very personal and heavily influenced by cultural nuances. Global MONITOR uses a metaphor to explore this complexity and visualise the potential strategies people may use. We ask consumers: ‘How do you think of your body?’ and offer them three options.
The Car is the metaphor for those people who see their body as a machine in which the component parts can be fixed. Among this group, strategies towards health and wellness tend to be short-term and reactive.
Those who identify with the Fortress see their body as something they have to strengthen and defend against external attack. This is also short-term, but predominantly a proactive approach.
Finally, the Tree is for those who see their body as something they nurture, taking an ongoing holistic approach to managing health. This is a much more long-term, proactive strategy.
It’s this final option, with its holistic approach to managing health, that’s here to stay: the percentage of Global MONITOR respondents identifying with the tree rose from 50 per cent in 2006 to 56 per cent in 2013. In comparison those in the car category fell from 20 to 15 per cent, while fortress went up just 1 per cent, to 29 per cent.
This growing interest in a holistic approach is evident across all markets, although there remain big differences. In countries such as Thailand, Japan and South Korea, over 70 per cent of people picked tree; and in South Africa, Colombia and Germany, tree came in at 60-70 per cent (see Figure 1).
Meanwhile in countries such as Spain, Italy, Brazil and India, tree registered between 50 and 60 per cent, but with fortress also important; in China, tree was also 50-60 per cent but car came out above average; and markets including the UK, US, Canada and Australia remained below 50 per cent for tree, with car above average. Interestingly, tree logged above average responses in Russia.
One of the big shifts registered in the above findings has occurred in some Asian markets, where a holistic approach was traditionally more of a culturally embedded behaviour. We’re beginning to see movement towards a more defensive strategy, however: a 10 per cent shift from tree to fortress in India, for example, indicates that there’s a more mixed approach to self-health management in that country. We suspect this could this be a response to recent risks of contracting foreign-derived viruses such as bird flu.
The market response
However consumers view their bodies, opportunities abound to support those who want to optimise their wellbeing. There’s been significant development in this space, including innovations that help people to manage their mental acuity, boost the body’s renewal processes and protect themselves against disease.
Some of the latest things include Kinohimistu, a lutein drink from Japan which claims to preserve optical health and drinks in the US that have been designed to help keep skin looking young while asleep. In Sweden the Vigo chewing gum is said to increase mental performance. Self-monitoring, devices such as Fitband and Fuelband can help consumers track and potentially optimise their health and fitness levels. However, consumers need to be motivated to improve their records rather than just passively reading the data.
When it comes to spa specific innovations, holistic ayurvedic treatments which were big in the 60s/70s are making a comeback; and salt saunas/inhalation rooms offer a natural, drug-free remedy for asthma, sinusitis, hay fever and other respiratory illnesses.
Spas in Austria, which focus more on natural health, rejuvenation, wellness and healing, are particularly cutting edge. Facilities there offer everything from laughter therapy to yoga and those that offer beauty treatments do so in a holistic fashion. In the Feng Shui beauty centre at the Qullenhotel, the equipment, experiences and therapists are all focused on energy flow and the harmony of Yin and Yang.
Seize the opportunity
The business landscape is changing. There’s a chance to reframe wellbeing and move brands into the lifestyle choice space, where there are more points to connect, serve and support consumers in their quest for better health.
We will see an increase in corporate wellness schemes as employers take an active interest in staff’s wellbeing as part of a commercial agenda – as well as their duty of care.
Meanwhile, our ability to collect and analyse big data about health will deliver solutions at mass and personalised levels. With the cost of decoding an individual genome likely to fall drastically to just US$1,000 (€738, £605) in the next two years, we can expect to see the personalised health market explode.
Our message to companies and brands is simple: seize the opportunity. There has never been a better time for brands to shape the future of wellness and assist consumers in their quest to live better and healthier lives.
The global momentum behind wellness is poised to impact everything about the way we live our lives, from the products we buy to the places we work and play.