Why 2020 Will Be The Year That Wellness Dies — And What Comes Next
In what feels like the blink of an eye, wellness has ascended from a fringe industry to a global force. The market is climbing twice as fast as the global economy, and upward of $4.2 trillion of goods and services now fall underneath wellness's wide umbrella. Not only is it growing faster than the global economy writ large, but what we now spend on wellness is more than half of what we spend on all global health expenditures ($7.3 trillion).
This has made way for a buffet of high-price, low-return products to enter the market and convolute what "wellness" really means—and who has access to it. In the last year, op-eds like Jessica Knoll's "Smash the Wellness Industry" (which likened wellness culture to diet culture) and Jen Gunter's "Worshiping the False Idols of Wellness" (which declared that the expensive wellness complex is exploiting gaps left by medicine) have run in the New York Times and stoked the first flames of the wellness backlash into an all-out fire.
In October, in honor of the 10th anniversary of mindbodygreen, we published an article outlining the 10 principles of our definition of wellness—one that has stayed steady over the last decade. Science continues to back up the simple and foundational health practices that we have long celebrated: We're now more confident than ever, for example, that moving your body improves longevity, that fruits and vegetables stave off cardiovascular disease, that 15 minutes of meditation can improve our mood and decrease stress. Research continues to support the fact that these basic practices—many of which are inexpensive or completely free—are the ones that promote lasting health in the long run.
This year the message of wellness has gotten jumbled. But the core values of well-being have never been more necessary. While the average global life expectancy has been steadily on the rise and was 72 years as of 2016, the average life expectancy in the U.S., however, has actually decreased for three consecutive years, according to the latest CDC data. We also know that 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two.
On top of that 50% of Americans will now likely be diagnosed with a mental illness or disease in their lifetime—a crisis so severe that is the third largest cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for those 18-44. If you break it down further by year, 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental illness this year alone. And in the US, only 41 percent of the people who had a mental disorder in the past year received any sort of professional health care.
We know that chronic diseases account for 75% of the money our nation spends on health care, yet only 1% of health dollars are spent on public efforts to improve overall health. Which essentially means, if we want to live long healthy lives, we need to take matters into our own hands, educate ourselves, and weed through the common health myths that may be sabotaging our efforts. Truly healthy practices are more important to our world than ever before.
As we stated in our 10-year declaration, "What we've seen in wellness is that things become trends and then people want to jump in. We live in an age of 23-year-old life coaches, and, as Michael Pollan writes in his new book, people in airports with signs for ayahuasca ceremonies instead of taxis. We believe that everyone has something to offer, but well-being advice is best doled out by seasoned experts who are credentialed in their respective fields."
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It's these science-backed pillars of health that we're most interested in sharing. That's why, this year, we pivoted the way we talk about "wellness" and started to use the term "well-being" instead. We also adopted a new tagline, connecting soul & science, and made sure that our first physical product, nr+ was backed by incredibly rigorous testing standards.
In a time when the barrier to entry to the wellness world has never felt higher, we're hoping that the backlash against it will bring us all back down to basics in 2020 and beyond.
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