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GWI launches White Paper Series: ‘Understanding Wellness’

01 Aug 2019
The Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a nonprofit research and educational resource for the wellness industry, has launched a new white paper series with an aim to bring clear, expert insights on how wellness is evolving now and into the future.

The ‘Understanding Wellness’ white paper series are designed to be a “go-to primer” for policymakers, businesspeople, researchers and students.

Authored by GWI senior research fellows Ophelia Yeung and Katherine Johnston, the first paper, The Global Forces Driving the Growth of the Wellness Economy, examines the four macro forces that are propelling consumer demand and the ongoing, surging growth of the wellness economy around the world.

Future topics will include important definitions and terminologies, a thorough history of wellness, and the wellness movement’s social and economic implications.

“Wellness is a concept that is both ancient and contemporary,” said Yeung. “Because of that, most people have an intuitive understanding of what it means, how to apply it to daily life, or how to create business opportunities out of it. The wellness economy is now a US$4.2tr global industry. Yet, the questions that we most often encounter are: ‘What is wellness?’ ‘Why is it growing?’ and ‘What does it really mean?’ In the ‘Understanding Wellness’ series, we want to answer these questions because a common language for and basic understanding of wellness can help bridge the divide with other industries and disciplines and broaden its applications and impacts.”

The white paper suggests that in recent decades, vast economic, technological, social, demographic, and environmental changes have transformed every aspect of our lives — our homes and communities, food, work, shopping, education, friendship, leisure, travel, etc. — with both positive and negative impacts on our wellbeing, and that the growth of wellness practices and businesses is a consumer response to these developments.

The paper outlines the four forces driving the wellness boom, as follows:

1) The world’s population is growing sicker, lonelier and older.
Deteriorating health, the spread of loneliness and mental illness, and the ramifications of aging all negatively impact people’s happiness and wellbeing. In response, consumers around the world are proactively turning to wellness approaches as alternatives to address these challenges.

2) The environmental crisis is also a health crisis.
Environmental degradation and its causes are bringing immediate, direct, severe and widespread harm to human health and wellbeing—from the air we breathe to how we procure and consume food to how we live and travel. As people become aware of these risks, they’re seeking out alternative lifestyles that are simultaneously healthier for themselves and more sustainable for the planet.

3) Health systems are failing to keep up while the economic burden rises.
Health systems are failing in countries all around the world, and the economic burden is unsustainable. Therefore, it’s not surprising that consumers, employers and even governments are turning to wellness approaches to complement and address deficiencies in healthcare and to turn from “sick care” to prevention.

4) Demographics, value systems and lifestyles are all evolving toward wellness.
Consumer values are changing fast, moving toward a lifestyle of wellness that is fundamentally shifting consumer behaviours and consumption patterns. This shift is bolstered by the rise of the middle class, urbanisation, the accessibility of so many new options, and a burgeoning concern about the impact of ubiquitous technology.

“Over the last 11 years, our work has focused on defining and measuring the industries that comprise the wellness economy — and GWI has become the leading resource for wellness industry data,” said Johnston. “Through that work, we have built up a vast conceptual knowledge of wellness, its drivers, and its implications. We’re excited to present foundational information about wellness through this new white paper series.”

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