Self Care Trends For 2020
Feb 04, 2020
WOW Self Care School is a participating partner in the Global Wellness Institute's initiatives. One of their key activities is the annual Global Wellness Summit (GWS) and each year they release their top 10 future wellness trends for the year.
In 2020 here are the new directions that the organization believes will have the most meaningful—not fleeting—impact on the $4.5 trillion global wellness industry. For WOW Self Care School and our growing Self Care tribe we concentrate in providing nugget sized information that helps individuals on their own self care journey. Keeping abreast of future trends, is a core part of our focus for members.
The top 10 future wellness and self care trends emerged from the insights of the 550 experts from 50 nations that gathered at the recent Summit held in late 2019, including top economists, doctors, academics, technologists and the CEOs of international corporations across all fields of wellness—making for a uniquely informed and global set of predictions.
Global marketing and communications agency FINN Partners is the exclusive sponsor of this year’s report.
Access the full report here.
10 WELLNESS TRENDS FOR 2020
Focus Shifts from Sleep to True Circadian Health
We’ve never been so sleep-obsessed. We pony up for sleep-tracking Oura rings, the latest, smartest mattresses, and meditative sleep headbands; crawl into nap pods; and travel far to bed down at sleep retreats. We gobble sleep tonics, CBD and even “sleep ice cream.” We’ve been hit by a storm of generic sleep products, driving a $432 billion “sleep economy,”* and we’re still not sleeping. Why? Because most sleep solutions, and our modern lives, defy the basic facts of circadian biology.
Humans evolved to be ultra-sensitive to the 24-hour cycle of the sun. The bedrock of circadian science is that regular light/dark cycles (the bright, blue light of day, darkness at dusk) are the daily “time cues” needed to reset our circadian clocks every single day. Our magnificent, internal, light-timed circadian rhythms control almost every system in our bodies: from our sleep/wake cycles to our immune and metabolic systems.
Of course, today, we humans have created the most radical disconnect between natural solar time and our social “clocks.” Modern life is a “lightmare”: We blast our brains after dusk with blue-enriched light from ever-brighter, addictive screens, while we’re deprived of the natural sunlight of the day, trapped at desks. The result: unprecedented circadian and sleep disruptions. No smart pillow or CBD can reset circadian rhythms: The only solutions that can have the TIMING of LIGHT at their center.
We predict a major shift in wellness: less focus on solutions targeting sleep/fatigue and a new focus on circadian health optimization, not only so we can sleep but to boost the brain/body systems controlled by the circadian clock. As Harvard’s Dr. Steven Lockley argues: “Circadian health optimization—incorporating the type and timing of light—will soon become more important than ‘sleep.’ Solutions that realign our internal circadian clocks with each other, and our internal clocks with the outside world, will surge.” Light—and the timing of light and biology—will become far more important, from circadian lighting to circadian diets to apps that use timed light doses to crush jet lag.
More people will finally spend a few bucks on bulbs, bringing tunable, biodynamic, circadian lighting into their homes, to automatically deliver bright blue light in the day and dimmer, warmer light (think: campfire colors) at dusk. There’s an explosion of options, whether Healthe, Savant or Dyson Lightcycle.
Hotels, wellness resorts and airlines have gone all-in on sleep, throwing every amenity/program imaginable at travelers’ exhaustion. Now the travel industry will think beyond the sleep massages and bed wars, and circadian science will transform travel. Jet lag is being eliminated by the Timeshifter app. Input your itinerary(s), and Timeshifter gives you a personal schedule of when you must take/avoid bright light, sleep and not sleep, etc. (Yes, you’ll be sporting sunglasses inside airports.) It works like magic; Six Senses and United Airlines have already signed on, and this light dosage-based tech could expand to “timeshifting” shift workers to new work schedules—and more. We’ll see more circadian “light moves” at destinations such as Germany’s Lanserhof Tegernsee’s circadian medicine program, with medical analyses of guests’ sleep-wake rhythms, light therapy and blue light-filter glasses at night, high-tech beds and sleepwear that optimize sleep temperature, and kill-switches in rooms that shut off all light and Wi-Fi.
As the science mounts that it’s when we eat that has the profound metabolic and weight loss consequences, intermittent fasting (eating in an 8–10-hour window) has become the hottest diet trend. But science suggests that it’s not just the “intermittency,” but the fact that eating is circadian-synched that’s the lynchpin, as humans evolved to eat in the day. We’ll see more people adopting a circadian diet: eating when it’s light, stopping when it’s dark.
Circadian medicine is moving fast. In a few years, it’s likely that a single blood, saliva or breath sample will be able to pinpoint our precise circadian clock-state, and apps could then inform us when to take in light and dark, sleep and rise, and eat and exercise. We expect some circadian market mayhem ahead (very bright and dim ideas). But the right timing of light and biology will move closer to the heart of wellness. Finally.
Aging Rebranded: Positively Cool
Baby boomers redefined aging, and now the market is finally catching up to them.
Unlike previous generations, today’s 55+ are anything but boring; they’re active, vivacious, and far more engaged in exciting endeavors. Today’s retirees start businesses, run marathons, and travel widely. They own motorcycles and increasingly scoop up hip downtown condos.
Even perceptions about their physicality is are underestimated: They are now the fastest-growing gym membership group and show the highest rate of frequent attendance.
That’s because they have the time and money to do so. In countries such as the US and Japan, boomers control the highest percentage of disposable income. They spend nearly five hours a day on smartphones and spend more on online shopping than millennials. And yet, this powerful demographic attracts only 10 percent of marketing budgets and less than 1 percent of global innovation.
The World Health Organization predicts the 60+ population will nearly double by 2050 from 12 percent to 22 percent. Companies are wising up. Across the spectrum, from beauty to food, brands now cater to this long-ignored group. They’re finally answering boomers’ call: Why shouldn’t they receive the same cool content and products as millennials?
Older populations have more medical concerns, but now these issues are treated sensitively and with the same aspirational design and marketing afforded to young demographics. Willow, an underwear brand for people with incontinence, is unlike its bulky diaper-like predecessors; the collection comes in sleek designs that echo the style of trendy fashion labels. Even adult nutrition drinks are getting a much-needed makeover. Perennial is a plant-based beverage taking on industry stalwarts such as Ensure and Boost with its almond vanilla taste. Their ad campaign features buff senior citizens running on a beach with the tagline, “longevity tastes good.”
We’re just at the tip of the iceberg. Industry analysts predict that more conglomerates will invest resources in the senior market, adding new products and experiences that attest to the boomers’ vibrancy. They’re living longer and healthier, and the market can no longer afford to ignore them.
Japan is the longevity nation: It has more centenarians per capita than any country on Earth. It’s a result of Japan’s unique culture of wellness, which unites ancient healing traditions with ingenious people-focused tech/design and innovative social policy. In the last few years, various Japanese wellness approaches became global trends: “Ikigai,” the lifelong pursuit of finding your true purpose; the spiritual value of minimalism and auditing our possessions (made viral by Marie Kondo); forest bathing (Shinrin-Yoku), meditative movement through the forest; and Wabi-sabi, the philosophy of embracing imperfection and transience. But these trends have been consumed piecemeal, and Japan is distinctly humble about its rich wellness assets. We think that will change: “J-Wellness” will increasingly be embraced as a holistic culture of wellbeing—from its innovations for our ageing world to the breakthroughs in J-Beauty to a reverence for nature and meditative ritual as preventative healthcare.
The world is ageing at a historic pace, and Japan, the first super-ageing nation, is experiencing first what the rest of us will soon. It’s innovating for the world’s “longevity economy,” pioneering solutions that could help all of us age better, whether new technology or intergenerational community design. Japan is busy developing “age-tech,” including social robots that provide emotional and physical support for older people and smart companionship for our lonely world, whether the AI-driven PARO seal robot or Sony’s aibo puppy.
Wellness is rewriting beauty—and natural, functional, prevention-focused and hyper-personalized ingredients are surging—so look for J-Beauty’s super-unique, high-nature and high-science beauty approaches and brands to rise. In Japan, purity is a cultural obsession, and J-Beauty is all about cleansing and layering light, super-hydrating products (essence lotions, such as SK II’s patented version with 50 micronutrients, and watery serums, etc.). The goal: Skin so healthy and bright (“bihaku”) makeup isn’t needed.
Nature and spiritual rituals as medicine are central to Japanese culture, and their unique wellness experiences are being fast developed at home for tourists while getting exported to destinations worldwide. Japan developed forest bathing in the 80s (they boast 62 official healing forests)—and we all know how this poetic practice has exploded at wellness resorts worldwide, with everything from “forest spas” to “forest skating” now rising. Japan is home to two-thirds of all hot springs destinations, and their authentic onsen culture is evolving: New luxury onsen resorts are springing up across Japan, and the onsen experience is now being exported to China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia by Japanese companies such as Hoshino Resorts. Japan is out in front of a rising wellness travel trend, the monastery stay, having opened up hundreds of Buddhist temples to tourists, and even creating an Airbnb of monastery booking (Terahaku). It’s bringing attention to ancient Japanese wellness approaches such as Shojin Ryori, the vegan temple food prepared by monks, a way of eating that’s all about contemplation. The communal, meditative ritual of the tea ceremony is now a hot wellness trend.
All eyes will be on Japan this summer as they host the Olympics. It will spur fascination with J-Wellness, an ever-evolving culture of ancient-meets-hyper-modern approaches, products and solutions for wellbeing.
Mental Wellness and Technology: Rethinking the Relationship
Awareness of the need to address mental health has grown significantly in the last few years. A broad category, this includes mental illness and neurological disorders but also new categories spanning anxiety, stress and despair. Issues such as climate change-induced anxiety and work-induced stress are commonplace. Last year, the World Health Organization declared “burnout” an official medical diagnosis.
Currently, the biggest barriers to treatment remain stigma, time, cost and availability. Many people wait weeks for a doctor’s appointment, provided they can even afford it. Others fear parking outside a therapist’s office, lest their neighbors see them.
As such, both the public and private sectors increasingly look to advance solutions at scale. Silicon Valley, for example, released an impressive array of digital solutions to ensure more individuals receive discreet and flexible care. Nearly 10,000 mental health apps currently crowd the market, ranging from behavioral health coaching to meditation content.
Affordable virtual therapy apps such as TalkSpace give patients the ability to call, text and video teleconference with professional counselors on their schedule, whereas chatbots serve as a listening friend on-demand. There are now wearables that monitor a user’s physiological signals throughout the day to prevent oncoming panic attacks. On the more experimental end, virtual reality is being used as an exposure therapy tool for PTSD survivors.
Some start-ups are even going so far as to gamify mental wellness, a trend that’s seeing an uptick in younger demographics. Nearly a million people have played SuperBetter, an app in which players accrue points by persevering through stressful situations, completing breathing exercises and breaking bad habits.
Mental health tech will move into the mainstream as cultural norms continue to shift. Industry analysts predict the next year will see a big spike in the adoption of telehealth, both in the mental healthcare space as well as primary care. Consumers’ embrace of convenient treatment as well as interest in self-care will transform how employers, universities and local governments offer subsidized mental wellness care.
Energy Medicine Gets Serious
Think “energy medicine,” and you think wellness world: all those practices aimed at healing the human “energy body,” whether acupuncture, chakra balancing, reiki, crystal healing, etc.—often decried as “woo woo” wellness. Western medicine and ancient medicines (TCM, Ayurveda and Shamanic traditions) do take radically different approaches to healing: The former embraces the anatomical/biochemical model while the major indigenous medical systems independently devised healing approaches based on interventions in the body’s energy fields (whether “qi” in TCM or the doshas in Ayurveda).
Despite polar-opposite approaches, traditional medicine and “ancient wellness” are now finding some common ground. Scientific researchers are discovering that the human body is indeed a complex biofield of electromagnetic frequencies and light waves that serve as control central for our physical and mental functioning—and that we’re also immersed in other complex environmental electromagnetic fields that change human cells. If medicine ignored the “energy body” for a century, new discoveries are shaking up entrenched thinking in biology.
The future is the medical AND wellness worlds innovating new tools and technologies to optimize human energy fields to prevent illness and boost health. Frequency therapies are crucial here: electromagnetic, light and sound interventions.
In medicine, electrifying new insights will keep coming around bioelectricity, the “organized lightning” that our cells use to grow and communicate. Michael Levin at Harvard’s Wyss Institute is just one top scientist uncovering the bioelectric “language” that cells use to coordinate everything from their own regeneration to cancer suppression. Biophotons are the light particles radiating from our cells that help regulate our biological systems—and the emerging field of Biophotonics will use coherent light (lasers, lighted crystals) to positively impact tissues and organs. New “optogenetic” tools are exciting neurons using light, allowing them to map the brain’s connections and activate brain circuits.
Humans are increasingly bombarded by electromagnetic frequencies in our hyper-networked world, which will only surge with the next-gen cell network 5G, unleashing an unprecedented storm of high-energy photons through our dwellings and bodies. The science around cellphones’ impact on health is shrilly contradictory, but electromagnetic pollution will be the new public health issue. The future: solutions shielding us from the biophotonic blitz. Architects will design homes, schools and workplaces to maintain a healthy human energy field. Wellness resorts and real estate developers are already making moves: At Germany’s Villa Stephanie, a flick of a button copper-lines your room so electricity and Wi-Fi is blocked; Troon Pacific’s luxury homes have shielded cables in bedroom walls to block exposure to electromagnetic fields, and flipping lights off at night also means flipping off Wi-Fi.
More wellness destinations will go “high energy”: serving up even more ancient energy medicines, more cutting-edge energy technologies, and more blending of both ancient and modern solutions. Six Senses Resorts’ “Grow a New Body” program—dubbed “neo-shamanism”—deploys many approaches to fix your energy body. On the modern side, energy-medicine evaluations with doctors, light therapies, altitude training, and ozone and oxygen therapies—while ancient shamanic approaches include mitochondria-boosting diets, fasting, plant medicine, and intensive spiritual work to clear negative emotions.
Energy medicine is at a pivotal moment, with the medical world and “ancient wellness” finding some common—at least in principle—theoretical ground. Common ground leads to new conversations and solutions. “Energy futures” in health and wellness: a very strong “buy.”
Organized Religion Jumps into Wellness
If going to church once meant dolling up in a dress to sit in a pew, today it might look more like wearing leggings for a HIIT-infused sermon. More and more, faith is incorporating the latest wellness trends, signifying a shift away from viewing bodywork as vanity.
With interest in health and fitness at an all-time high, organized religion is reimagining age-old rituals and formats. For some churches, synagogues and mosques, this adoption simply reflects a desire to feel better and to take preventative health measures. Congregations no longer want to separate their physical and spiritual needs but instead, hope to fuse them together in novel new ways. This ranges from aerobic fitness classes to meditative retreats, all reworked with religious liturgy and biblical references. There are now boutique fitness studios solely devoted to worship or which cater to religious constraints. We see Ramadan bootcamps, Jewish Sabbath service hikes, Christian wellness retreats, Catholic Pilates classes and Muslim fitness YouTube channels.
For other religious institutions, these new measures constitute a blatant appeal to younger worshippers, especially millennials. A 2018 Pew Research Center study found that adults under age 40 are far less likely to believe religion is “very important” in their lives than older groups. To make Sunday service more relevant, religious leaders add elements that speak to this demographic: meditation, nutrition, and connection to nature, among other interests. One Los Angeles synagogue offers a yoga class on Yom Kippur.
This extends beyond brick-and-mortar. Groups also expand audiences through wellness apps and platforms. Faithful Workouts is an online Christian ministry of streaming workouts infused with sermons and Christian music, whereas Soultime is an app providing guided meditation through a religious lens.
While the bulk of this trend depends on independent churches and start-ups, we’ll start to see megachurches, national religious organizations, and more influential leaders further embrace this trend. Many institutions now start to see health and wellness initiatives as a crucial part of tending to parishioners’ wellbeing.
The Wellness Sabbatical
The current vacation model: work like mad and take a week of vacation where you’re supposed to totally switch off. A great model, but one that doesn’t work for many people anymore. As work has become “always-on,” more people aren’t taking their vacation days, and vastly more people are remote/independent workers with no formal vacation time. The reality: More people desperately need a profound wellness break, but they need to keep working. Shaming them for not taking vacations—or not totally unplugging when they do—feels naïve.
Enter a new travel concept: the wellness sabbatical, where days of work and wellness are intentionally blended, at destinations that actively, creatively make this possible. On a wellness sabbatical, you’re set up to work a few productive hours a day (great workspaces, technology), but you also schedule a lot of daily wellness experiences (healthy food, movement, time in nature, sleep, human connection, etc.). And repeat, hopefully for a minimum of three weeks, that sweet spot to jumpstart lasting lifestyle changes and for a true mental reset. The time we dedicate to recharging has shrunk: from the three-week-long “taking a kur” common in Europe a few decades ago to that weekend wellness getaway. It’s time for the pendulum to swing longer, and the work+wellness sabbatical model makes it possible.
Kamalaya in Thailand just unveiled a Wellbeing Sabbatical program, which (with a minimum 21-day stay) goes far deeper than a mere “recharge,” and where the comprehensive daily healing experiences (including personal mentoring) are flexibly designed around guests’ work schedules. Vana in India just unveiled its 30-day wellness sabbatical, where great technology and workspaces mean having that conference call after an appointment with a Tibetan Healing doctor. At Mexico’s Rancho La Puerta, execs are checking into casitas with private pools and offices to interweave a few hours of work each day with immersion in their 365-degree wellness offerings. We predict more top wellness resorts, typically designed around 1–2 week stays, will expand to 21-day, flexible work+wellness programs.
And don’t fear, inexpensive, hip, wellness-sabbatical-enabling destinations are brewing, with the surge in co-living/co-working platforms for the digital nomad (that are increasingly serving up wellness programming)—whether Outsite or for-women Behere. Selina offers co-working/living and wellness at destinations from Portugal to Panama, where days are spent working, hanging with the tribe, surfing, doing yoga, etc.—and where wellness practitioners stay free for teaching. Creative models abound: At Gather in Israel, stay a month, work, and experience the “wellness kibbutz” lifestyle; Amble offers super-affordable, one-month nature sabbaticals for creative types at US National Parks. Why go home? Why have a home?
Transformation comes from longer wellness experiences, but most of us have jobs. That’s the heartbeat of the wellness sabbatical, a concept we think will hit hundreds of destinations—and could shake up the future of travel, wellness and work.
The Fertility Boom
Fertility is no longer a taboo topic hushed about in doctor’s offices. The last few years saw incredible progress in this space on multiple fronts. Celebrities and newsmakers ranging from Kim Kardashian to Mark Zuckerberg shared their personal experiences; numerous countries expanded their health coverage to include IVF; while Silicon Valley funded a number of start-ups attempting to solve every issue impacting fertility—for both men and women.
These advancements couldn’t come sooner: Fertility has reached a crisis point across the globe. Highly industrialized countries such as England, Japan and the US continue to see record-low fertility rates, which will ultimately impact the future of the workforce. There are multiple reasons at play, but the most dominant one is that women of childbearing age delay having children. Not that they’re the sole party: Research shows that male sperm quality begins to decline at age 35, making men just as susceptible to a ticking biological clock.
So, what does fertility care look like today? Nothing like your mother’s healthcare. The landscape is filled with apps, period trackers, platforms, and wearables that not only increase one’s chances of conceiving but even attempt to make it, well, enjoyable. Community support networks such as Peanut Trying to Conceive make it a less lonesome journey, while Tinder-like partner-matching app Just A Baby lets one swipe through potential baby daddies.
Even the fertility clinic, once a dreaded place to get poked and prodded, has been transformed. A medley of newcomers reimagine IVF treatment, much like a spa experience—champagne, hors d’oeuvres, concierge service, and a decor that’s more akin to a fashion boutique. Trendy bicoastal US clinic Kindbody takes it one step further by taking the show on the road: It launched a roaming bus to conduct fertility tests and encourage young women to take family planning more seriously.
Of course, treatments don’t come cheap. In the US, for example, the average couple can spend up to $60,000 for IVF treatment. Suck sticker shock inspired several start-ups specifically devoted to flexible financing services. Some of them are rather creative, ranging from a “fertility debit card” to financial plans for eager-to-be grandparents who can take a loan out on behalf of their adult children.
So far, women’s health start-ups are believed to have secured over $1 billion in investment, and of that, 60 percent is focused on fertility or pregnancy. It’s just the start of what many see as a femtech revolution.
We all self-medicate through music, but most people don’t grasp just how powerful the medical evidence for music therapy is: Humans are hardwired for music; no other stimulus positively activates so many brain regions; and stringent studies show its dramatic impact on mood, anxiety and pain.
If formal “music therapy” has always seemed a tad dowdy, now, suddenly, something big is happening. Music as an intentional therapy is being radically reinvented by new technologies. Music is emerging as one of the hottest trends in wellness, and wellness concepts are shaking up the massive music industry. “Wellness music” is being born, and the trend takes provocative forms.
There’s a big uptick in scientific research identifying how music’s structural properties (such as beat, key, chord progression, etc.) specifically impact the brain and biometrics such as heart rate and sleep patterns—so evidence-based music and soundscapes can be developed as precision medicine. Music therapy’s potential is so immense that the NIH just awarded $20 million to fund a Sound Health Initiative to uncover music’s brain mechanisms and new applications to treat everything from PTSD to autism. That’s serious money for serious science. The trend is also being fueled by our exhaustion with visual culture and screens: More of us are retreating into music and sound, as evidenced by everything from the surge in podcast-listening to the rise of hip “vinyl listening bars.”
The mainstream music industry is pivoting to “wellness music.” There’s an explosion of wellbeing playlists (stress-reducing, sleep-focused, etc.) at the big streaming sites such as Spotify. There’s big, new audiences for ambient and now actually cool “New New Age” music. Musical artists—from Erykah Badu and Jhene Aiko to bands such as Sigur Rós—are incorporating all kinds of wellness into their concerts, whether mass sound baths, meditation or aromatherapy. Full-blown audio-wellness festivals are rising. “Wellness” is becoming a new mode of listening—beyond the artist or genre.
A fascinating development: the rise of “generative” music, with apps that pull your biological, psychological and situational data to create a tailor-made-for-you, always-changing soundscape—to improve your mental health any time you want to tune in. Berlin-based Endel is the headline-grabber, and their app deploys biometrics, AI and algorithms to create a personalized ambient wellness composition that just keeps blossoming as your bio and environmental input provides more data—whether you’re stressed in traffic or headed out for a run. At London’s wellness music sanctuary Wavepaths, founded by a neuroscientist and leading psilocybin researcher, you nest in an egg-pod, sensors gauge your biological and emotional states, and AI translates that data into a healing composition that courses through you via 21 surrounding speakers. (Music that simulates psychedelic experiences will rise.)
Meditation apps are morphing into wellness music apps. New player Wave foregoes the old whispery, guided meditations for an all-wellness-music platform that, combined with its pulse-vibrating bolster, delivers multi-frequency meditation. Mega-meditation app Calm is evolving into a “wellness music” platform. Their incredibly popular “Sleep” channel features compositions by alt-rock stars such as Moby and Sabrina Carpenter designed to work as adult lullabies. In 2020, they’re working with famous artists—whether country or hip-hop stars—to create new, long-form “Calm” music for wellbeing (essentially becoming a wellness record label).
We’ll see ear-opening, new music and sound experiences at travel destinations. Wellness resorts have launched so many sound baths, they’ve become a collective, mind-melting “Gong Show”—and the ancient sonic journeys aren’t going anywhere. More wellness studios, such as London’s Mind Like Water, will put rich menus of sound healing under one roof, whether Ayurvedic sound therapy massage or CBD sound journeys. Some really new acoustic experiences will hit wellness travel. “Deep listening” in noise-protected nature looks to be a fascinating development. In Amazon Awakenings’ “Let it Happen” trip, acoustical ecologist Gordon Hempton leads travelers on an “interactive sound journey” in the sonically stupendous Ecuadorean rain forest, at the first noise-pollution-free “Wilderness Quiet Park.” You learn to recover your lost animal-alert, 360-degree hearing, and practice “deep listening exercises” to identify the natural “drumbeats, violins, raindrops and choruses” around you.
People will pit artist-created music against new, neuroscientist-designed wellness soundscapes. But this trend isn’t about giving up your Bob Dylan or Beyoncé fixes—it’s about seeing music’s health potential anew, with far more “wellness music” options: radical new technologies, experiments and experiences.
In Wellness We Trust: The Science Behind the Industry
Wellness is by nature a consumer industry: It evolved to supplement what traditional medicine hasn’t tackled well, whether prevention, lifestyle change or mental wellness. But because it’s a hyper-consumer, largely unregulated, $4.5 trillion market, there’s been a storm of baseless claims about pseudo-scientific products and Instagram and celeb “wellness influencers” for hire. It’s one thing when a wellness approach has little benefit but does no harm—but when a “flat tummy tea” loaded with laxatives does real harm, the situation is serious.
The industry has been ripe for more rigorous reckoning—whether through media criticism, internal company policing, new vetting and evidence platforms, or government regulation. And the time has come. Wellness watchdogs will rise, trying to re-establish some distinctions between legitimate wellness approaches and practitioners and charlatans who give wellness a bad name. People want help separating wheat from chaff, and more resources will help them do it.
We’ll see more online call-out platforms, such as Instagram collective Estée Laundry, which goes after the false claims of influencers and brands in the beauty industry. (Online platforms that take on the wider wellness space are likely ahead.) We’ll see more vetting and certification sites such as UK-based WellSpoken, whose content tries to counter wellness pseudoscience and certifies brands. WellSet is trying to take on questionable wellness practices with a marketplace where people can find reputable local specialists.
More companies will self-police, such as CVS Pharmacy’s recent “Tested to Be Trusted” initiative, which subjected all of its supplements and vitamins to third-party testing so what a customer sees on a label is what they get.
Most people wouldn’t want the government regulating yoga or meditation, but we predict more governments will become bigger watchdogs of supplements and falsehood-in-wellness- marketing. While most governments (such as the US) don’t require that supplements have to work or even be safe, US Senator Richard Blumenthal recently went fast and furious after the makers of “flat tummy teas”—with legislative outcome. Ireland requires that wellness marketers’ online statements conform to the language requirements on EU nutrition and health claims. This fall, the US created firm standards for hemp and CBD production.
There are tens of thousands of medical studies on wellness approaches, despite the fact that the wellness world isn’t on an even playing field, lacking the deep pockets of Big Pharma to conduct big trials among large populations over long periods of time. But there are resources to help you explore all the hard science: The just-upgraded wellnessevidence.com provides direct access to the universe of medical evidence (pro or con) for 28 wellness approaches—from acupuncture to yoga—at the top databases that doctors use: Cochrane, PubMed, TRIP—and also alternative medicine-focused Natural Standards.
We’re in a wider cultural crisis now over fact and fiction; science and belief; and shrill opinion versus collective, consensual notions of reality and truth. We hope truth makes a comeback, and in wellness, more watchdogs will help.
*Frost & Sullivan assessment for Casper, 2019