Mental Health

6 trends that define the future of health and wellness

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People are more ready to embrace change in their lifestyles, but for many true wellness remains out of reach. Image: Unsplash/ Helena Lopes

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Mental Health

This article is part of: Centre for Health and Healthcare
  • The pandemic has made people more concerned about their health.
  • But wellness is about much more than medical fitness.
  • Here are 6 megatrends that will shape how we think about wellness after COVID-19.

Will wellness ever mean the same thing again after the pandemic? New research suggests COVID-19 has made people more health conscious and willing to change their lifestyles to stay well.

Ipsos surveyed 1,160 people across the United States to predict how wellbeing might change in a post-pandemic world. They found that 62% of Americans believe their health is more important to them than before the pandemic.

The pandemic has changed how people in the US view their health.
The pandemic has changed how people in the US view their health. Image: Ipsos

Other findings in the report suggest people are more ready to embrace change in their lifestyles but, for some, true wellness remains out of reach due to inequality.

Although White Americans were least optimistic about their future health, Black Americans were 15 percentage points less likely to see a doctor at least once a year than other groups although they were more likely to seek alternative medicine.

Only 71% of Black patients said they were treated respectfully by healthcare providers compared 83% of White and Hispanic people. Around a third of Black people and 35% of Hispanic patients said their health concerns were stigmatized due to their racial identity.

Most Americans said they felt respected by their healthcare providers.
Most Americans said they felt respected by their healthcare providers. Image: Ipsos

Data from the study was then combined with other surveys to create a picture of the future, leading the team at Ipsos to identify these six trends they believe will define changes in our approach to wellness over the next decade.

1. An ageing population

In the US, as in the rest of the developed world, medical advances mean people are living longer. “An ageing population that will impact the growing caregiving crisis and how we innovate products and services to meet their needs,” say the study’s authors.

The researchers expect new technologies like smart tattoos, which use sensors injected into the skin and change colour to monitor things like glucose levels and body temperature, to help individuals monitor their own health in later years.

2. More virtual healthcare

COVID-19 has placed massive burdens on healthcare systems around the world. But in response to restrictions preventing in-person consultations with doctors, telemedicine - using video calls and remote monitoring - has come to the fore.

Over half of Americans told Ipsos they had consulted a medical professional using a virtual link and 89% said they were satisfied with the experience. Three quarters also said they would like to manage their healthcare using an app or a website in future.

3. Customized personal diets

It’s long been known that diet plays a key part in health. But the study shows people want to be able to tailor their diets to meet their particular health needs. More than two fifths of Americans want customized advice and plans for their health.

Interviewed for the study, Naveen Jain, Founder and CEO, Viome Life Sciences predicted that in future people will be able to 3D print their own food from ingredients stored in their smart fridges - appliances that will also tell them what to buy and when to buy it.

4. Removing mental-health taboos

Mental health is rated second only to physical health in the US and ranked third globally, according to Ipsos. Younger generations are much more in tune with their mental health with almost a fifth of Generation Z and 13% of millennials consulting a mental health professional at least three times each year.

America’s younger people are more likely to make regular visits to mental health professionals
America’s younger people are more likely to make regular visits to mental health professionals. Image: Ipsos

Although 44% of Americans told Ipsos they were flourishing during the pandemic, 21% said they were languishing from a mental health point of view. The views of different age groups varied starkly with 51% of baby boomers flourishing compared to just 34% of millennials.

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5. Environmental concerns

We all know that walking is healthy, but for many people in cities, pollution and traffic can make it hazardous. Two fifths of Americans said it would be easy for them to get some exercise by taking a walk in a public park but only 28% were doing so.

And although most people were concerned about climate change and its impact on their wellbeing, only a minority were changing what they bought to help tackle it - 41% of US citizens had made changes in 2021, down from 56% in 2020.

6. Tech to the rescue?

So, can tech help us improve our wellness? There’s already a plethora of wearable devices that measure exercise, heart rate and blood oxygen. Although 46% of people said an activity tracker like the Apple Watch or Fitbit was helpful, opinions about their usefulness were waning.

The researchers say more advanced technology, which could give users a readout of their state of health every day, offers the possibility of enabling people to regulate their behaviour to optimize their health.

The World Economic Forum’s 2020 briefing paper Building Trust in the Smart Home revealed that devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) could help safeguard people’s health in the home and improve their wellness.

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