It took a pandemic to upend life as we know it, prompting Americans to rethink their notions around health & wellness aspirations and behaviors.

HW21 Report Cover Image

Our understanding of what it means to be healthy and well has always been evolving as new scientific facts and societal orientation emerge, but COVID-19 brought about unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts, shifting consumer perceptions, concerns, and routines. The Hartman Group’s Health & Wellness 2021: Reimagining Well-being Amid COVID-19 report finds that a full 38% of us had some changing views about health and wellness in the past year.

Throughout these past 18 months, there has been a heightened sentiment in many of feeling anxious and overwhelmed—by information and messages, by lifestyle ruts that can feel inescapable, by daily work-life balance, by polarizing politics, and by big issues like social justice and climate change.

Our Health & Wellness report updates Hartman’s perspective on the American health and wellness landscape in the wake of the pandemic and delivers insights into how consumers envision and enact health and wellness in our new normal.

Here are three big insights from the report.

  1. The Broader Shift Toward Holistic Health Continues with Immunity in the Spotlight

Today’s holistic health & wellness ideal is rooted in resilience—both body and mind. The semantic landscape of health and wellness has remained fairly consistent through all this change, with meaning anchored in being physically fit (51%), having strong immunity/ability to recover (51%), leading a balanced lifestyle (51%), not being ill (46%), and being able to deal with stress (46%).

Even as the U.S. government ramps up measures to combat COVID-19, emerging virus variants, evolving public health measures, and vaccination progress are areas of uncertainty and sources of stress for consumers—keeping immunity at the fore.

  1. COVID-19 Has Altered Needs and Notions Around Diet and Nutrition

Shifting needs: optimizing for a “new norm.” Many consumers report their degree and pattern of physical activity have changed notably. Some of this change means consumers may not need the same caloric intake—while developing and sustaining new routines requires energy, too. Choices around nutrition and energy support are being considered through this new lens. Compared with one year ago, 49% of consumers say the amount of exercise they do has changed.

Shifting habits: preparing food at home. Cooking at home has given some consumers a new degree of control and choice when it comes to “eating clean.” Home-cooked meals tend to have a health halo, but some consumers note portion control as a challenge that can undermine health benefits. Among all consumers, 37% have started or increased cooking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shifting contexts: home pantries always at hand. Some consumers are home most of the day with pandemic-stocked pantries. In addition, the commutes and scheduled breaks that once marked the day have gone by the wayside for some. With fewer barriers to eating at any time, consumers feel a need to be more mindful eaters. Among those who say their health worsened in the past year, 23% say constant access to their pantry made it harder to stay healthy.

  1. Consumers Are Drawn to a “Plant-Based” Approach to Eating as It Aligns with Key Ideas in Modern Health & Wellness

Consumer interest in plant-based is high—whether it’s for one meal, one month, or frames a long-term approach to eating.

  • 48% of consumers look for products labeled “plant-based” (describers me well or somewhat well)
  • 31% seek out plant-based proteins in their diet
  • 34% of consumers are moderating intake of animal products in some way with their “typical” eating approaches (eliminating or reducing animal protein or excluding specific types)
  • 18% of consumers have tried a specific diet aimed at reducing meat (vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian) in the past year
  • 15% of purchasers of meat alternative products describe themselves as vegan or vegetarian

Learn more and order the report: Hartman Health & Wellness 2021