The Meaning of Health & Wellness in 2021: The Consumer Perspective Continues to Evolve
Americans’ understanding of what it means to be healthy and well has always been evolving as new scientific facts and societal orientation emerge.
The Hartman Group’s health and wellness syndicated research series has been tracking consumer attitudes, behaviors, aspirations, and challenges around health and wellness for over two decades. Over this time frame, we’ve witnessed several long-term shifts that have been reshaping the American health and wellness landscape.
- An increased grasp of the interconnectedness of different parts of the body and of different aspects of modern life has deepened focus on holistic wellness, including mental health.
- New technologies have enabled new ways of tracking health statistics and supporting one’s health with increasingly personalized solutions.
Accelerating these trends, the year 2020 brought about unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts, shifting consumer perceptions, concerns, and routines. The global spread of COVID-19 has been the major driving force behind changing lifestyles and attitudes but certainly not the only force, with environmental and social justice issues also receiving a substantial share of public attention over the past year.
The Hartman Group’s 2021 report, Health & Wellness: Reimagining Well-being Amid COVID-19 finds that the meaning of health and wellness remains firmly rooted in a foundation of physical and mental resilience. Throughout 2020, a year of frustrating and fluctuating circumstances, consumers returned to this ideal as their North Star, guiding their aspirations as they reimagined their paths to well-being.
The Contemporary Consumer Understanding of Health and Wellness
Health and wellness in the U.S. has evolved as science, technology, consumers, and sociocultural factors influence what we need, believe, and value. These forces shape an increasingly holistic ideal of health and wellness that draws attention to individual needs, interconnected systems of the body, mental and emotional well-being, and more.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most significant and widespread force reshaping the American health and wellness landscape today, with 85% of U.S. adults reporting fundamental changes to the circumstances of their lives.
As our report points out, however, the specific impacts on individuals and households are anything but uniform.
- Older consumers have found themselves more medically vulnerable and thus socially isolated.
- Younger consumers, people of color, and parents have felt the pandemic in their job —losing work or facing a more stressful work environment.
- Increased work hazards have affected essential workers across income levels.
- Consumers of color and households with children were also more likely to see shifts in the composition of their households.
Shifts in consumer health attitudes and concerns span personal and community safety, near- and long-term health, mental and physical well-being, and connections to the world beyond one’s household.
More than one-third (38%) of consumers say their views on health and wellness have changed in the past year. The top three reasons for changed views on health and wellness:
- More stress or anxiety – 38%
- Changed lifestyle – 33%
- Weight gain/loss – 32%
Not surprisingly, and perhaps due to the pandemic, 67% of consumers say they are now more “concerned about my and my family’s immediate health and safety” and 67% of consumers also say they are now more “concerned about my and my family’s long-term health.”
How do consumers define health and wellness in 2021?
The semantic landscape of health and wellness has remained fairly consistent through all the anxiety, uncertainty, and risk of the past year, with meaning anchored in feeling good, being well and fit, achieving balance, and having resilience in the face of mental, emotional, and physical challenges.
Consumers articulate health and wellness to mean (top seven descriptions):
- Feeling good about myself – 52%
- Being physically fit – 51%
- Having strong immunity / ability to recover – 51%
- Leading a balanced lifestyle – 51%
- Not being ill – 46%
- Being able to deal with stress – 46%
- Having the energy for an active lifestyle – 44%
Many continue to articulate a holistic view, assured with recent events that physical health cannot be achieved separately from mental well-being.
While increased concerns for immediate physical safety (personal, close family, immediate community) have been a common denominator, this challenging year has also sent some in search of more health information, intensified the health and wellness practices of others, and caused consumers to pull back in ways consistent with the rules of staying healthy during a pandemic. As consumers dial tactics up or down in line with their changed circumstances and constraints, they are finding different paths to their H&W goals and creating new areas of growth.
The Hartman Group’s data- and insight-rich Health & Wellness 2021: Reimagining Well-being Amid COVID-19 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. To obtain the report, download the overview and order form here: THG HW21