The Global Wellness Institute looks beyond COVID & says the Wellness Economy will grow to nearly $7.0 trillion in 2025
Global Wellness Institute released its report, “The Global Wellness Economy: Looking Beyond COVID, December 2021,” and rounded up the victors and duds of the pandemic and gave insight on what’s ahead. The report, prepared by Ophelia Yeung and Katherine Johnston, with contributions from Tonia Callender, says that the wellness economy now comprises eleven sectors with the latest addition of mental wellness.
Personal care and beauty, healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss are the largest sectors in the wellness economy, accounting for 44% of the global wellness market. According to Global Wellness Institute (GWI), physical activity, wellness tourism, and traditional and complementary medicine hold the position of the next top five largest sectors.
After an unpredictable upheaval in consumer and business life caused by a global pandemic, what can GWI’s data tell us about the future of the wellness industry? Here are the findings.
Wellness economy sectors that grew during the pandemic (2019-2020)
• Fitness Technology (+29.1%)
While the physical activity sector shrank, GWI reports that fitness tech exploded in 2020. The pandemic resulted in millions of consumers transitioning to digital workouts in the form of streaming and apps. Fitness businesses quickly pivoted from in-person offerings to digital to meet consumer demand and at-home gym equipment saw a huge rise in popularity.
• Wellness Real Estate (+22.1%)
Wellness real estate maintained the highest growth both before and during the pandemic, reports Global Wellness Institute. COVID-19 led to people’s awareness of external environments in their physical and mental health and well-being. This cognition influenced consumers and the building industry.
• Mental Wellness (+7.2%)
The desire for mental fortitude experienced substantial growth in 2020 as consumers, faced with historic stress levels, began grasping for products, services, and activities to help them cope, says Global Wellness Institute. The report on wellness economy indicates that many of the activities were home-based or via tech platforms, like meditation, online self-help groups, and relaxation sessions. These products were generally inexpensive and easily purchased by consumers. Aside from tech platforms, consumers purchased stress-relieving tools like aromatherapies, white noise machines, stress gadgets, weighted blankets, and brain health supplements. These purchases, GWI says, helped keep spending high even during COVID disruptions.
• Public Health, Prevention, & Personalized Medicine (+4.5%)
Public health maintained its growth momentum due to many governments and healthcare systems accelerating public health and prevention during the pandemic, reports GWI.
• Healthy Eating, Nutrition, & Weight Loss (+3.6%)
The wellness economy’s nutrition sector grew as consumers opted for foods, beverages, vitamins, and supplements to help boost immunity and ward off disease during COVID, says GWI. However, the report warns that the growth in this area doesn’t necessarily mean consumers were eating healthier, as there was “scant scientific evidence and no consensus on how healthy these products actually are.”
Wellness sectors that shrank during COVID-19
• Wellness Tourism (-39.5%), Spas (-38.6%), and Thermal/Mineral Springs (-38.9%)
The pandemic affected wellness facilities because of travel restrictions, stay-at-home orders, and business shutdowns. However, while wellness tourism took a hit due to COVID-19, this is a sector that is on the mend.
• Personal Care & Beauty in 2020 (-13.0%)
Personal care and beauty experienced a consumer spending dive due to retail store shutdowns, consumers tightening their purse strings, and supply chain issues, reports GWI.
• Physical Activity-related Expenditures (-15.5%)
These activities, says GWI, declined due to shutdowns of sports facilities, in-person classes, stay-at-home orders, and reduced consumer spending on sports-related apparel and footwear.
The future of the wellness economy
Interestingly, the wellness economy sectors with the highest future projections, like wellness tourism, spas, and thermal/mineral springs, were those that took the biggest dive in 2020, but GWI says that the growth may taper off once settling back to pre-pandemic normalcy. Experiential activities and those that include close contact may recover more gradually due to consumer apprehension.
GWI reports that the pandemic led to a shift in consumers seeking overall wellness in their lives. Wellness has become more valued, and consumers are becoming aware that their environments (where they live, work, eat, socialize, and travel) has a significant impact on “health outcomes, mental resilience, and overall sense of well-being,” according to GWI. The report indicates that the global wellness economy will grow at 9.9% annually and will grow to nearly $7.0 trillion in 2025.
Overall, the pandemic-related global shift in values has (and will continue to have) a profound impact on the wellness economy. Mental health has taken center stage and is quickly becoming destigmatized. The pandemic also resulted in people seeking more time outdoors – and adopting it as a frequent wellness practice. Self-care is also transitioning from what was once viewed as a luxury to a human necessity.
As GWI points out, the collective COVID-19 experience has sparked significant shifts in how consumers understand, experience, and expect wellness, and this new knowledge will result in future growth for the wellness industry.
Courtney Rehfeldt has worked in the broadcasting media industry since 2007 and has freelanced since 2012. Her work has been featured in Age of Awareness, Times Beacon Record, The New York Times, and she has an upcoming piece in Slate. She studied yoga & meditation under Beryl Bender Birch at The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. She enjoys hiking, being outdoors, and is an avid reader. Courtney has a BA in Media & Communications studies.