Wellness in the future will be more serious and science-backed, but also more social and sensory, according to the “Future of Wellness” report released on Jan. 31 by the Global Wellness Summit.
“Cast your mind back to 2019, the highwater mark of the hyper-consumerist, product-flooded wellness market, with so many evidence-challenged trends-a-minute,” said Global Wellness Chair and CEO Susie Ellis. “This report is proof that the wellness market of just three years ago suddenly feels archaic. Wellness in 2023 (and beyond) will be more serious and science-backed, but also more social and sensory.”
The 12 wellness trends for 2023, according to the report, are:
Gathering. Loneliness is skyrocketing, and it kills. The No. 1 predictor of health and happiness is relationships. But somehow, the recent uber-capitalist wellness market has led with two things: a sea of keep-them-spending “me time” products and “digital wellness”—both lonely journeys of “self-care.” The pandemic has proven to be the breaking point: the biggest wellness trend is new spaces and experiences that—intentionally and creatively—bring people together in real life, where social connection is the burning center of the concept. The future of wellness? A move from lonely to social self-care, from buying to belonging, from URL to IRL, from ego to empathy, from Goop to group.
Indigenous Travel. Wellness and wellness tourism have long resembled Disney’s “It’s a Small World,” buffets of global experiences typically divorced from place. Yoga, born in India, is ubiquitous worldwide; ayahuasca retreats have departed their Amazonian homelands; you can get a Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage in Dubai. But with a new critique of wellness as a profound cultural appropriator, a rising social justice movement, and greater emphasis on authenticity, travelers are now seeking much deeper cultural experiences and showing interest in going to the source of ancient healing and knowledge about how to care for the land and for themselves.
Meaningful Workplace Wellness. From protected time off to finally acknowledging women’s health needs, employee wellness is getting a much-needed rethink. Employers have been casually tossing around the word “wellness” since the 1980s. But four decades later, we have little to show for it. Worldwide, 70 percent of knowledge workers have experienced burnout in the past year, and a recent global study found that 38 percent of workers hate their jobs so much that they wouldn’t wish it on their worst enemy. Clearly, all those “workplace wellness” initiatives haven’t been working for us. But with the pandemic dramatically accelerating shifts in work models and the mental health crisis — and employees newly empowered — things are changing for the better. Superficial wellness at work schemes are being replaced with more meaningful solutions.
Biotech Beauty. As the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic subsides, one thing has become clear: science is king. In the world of beauty, the shift towards data-backed products has never been more evident. We’re seeing an about face from the conversation around “clean beauty” (with all its muddy claims) to a desire for lab-tested, science-backed and even lab-created products. In this trend, we look at the evolution from the greenwashing and false claims to today’s new—and welcomed—medical, bio-positive and tech-forward product development, and explore what the future might hold.
Urban Wellness. The pandemic sparked a new recognition of the relationship between the health of cities and the health of city dwellers. Global cities are now at an inflection point where they are rebuilding themselves around the wellness needs of their citizens. “Urban wellness infrastructure” is no longer perceived as a luxury—it’s a necessity, according to the report. Cities are implementing diverse, creative ways that an urban wellness infrastructure—the melding of capital improvements and business opportunities that holistically address social, mental and physical health—is being embraced around the world as a solution for accelerating growth, fueling post-pandemic recovery, and cultivating healthier, happier citizens.
Fat Conversion. Harnessing the ability to live longer and “younger” is among the biggest trends in medicine and wellness today, according to the report. For Michael Roizen, MD, a crucial factor in the longevity quest is recognizing that not all fat is created equal. Transforming white/yellow fat into beige/brown fat has the potential to move the needle on obesity because brown fat has increased mitochondrial density and burns lots of calories, while white fat is metabolically inefficient and doesn’t use much energy, he said in the report.
Government Actions. Governments know the economic and societal costs that come when people don’t feel mentally and physically well and that unwellness shrinks the labor force while hurting productivity. Governments are getting more active in preventive wellness because it saves public money since prevention costs less than treatments.
Water Experiences. The pandemic spurred a hunger for in-nature experiences that shows no signs of abating, the report noted. But the nature surge usually refers to land experiences. In 2023, people will jump into the world’s wild waters for some “blue wellness”—from an unprecedented global surge in new-look hot springs destinations to wild and cross-country swimming going global, according to the report.
Sports during Travel. Savvy hospitality brands are responding to demands from wellness-focused clients looking beyond the basement gym, in search of pro-athlete-level equipment, fitness classes and wellness programming, whenever and wherever they travel, according to the report. Some hotel brands are creating facilities that cater to amateur or professional sports teams, expanding the function of the hotel and ensuring professional quality. Businesses that support this trend will become the go-to brands for future generations, according to the report.
Multisensory Integration. Advances in neuroscience and neuroaesthetics confirm that, when combined, the senses elevate human experience. Nature is multisensory and so are people. The senses have always been present in wellness. In fact, people subconsciously associate many wellness activities with one sense or another: spa is touch, wellness music is sound, chromotherapy is color, healthy food is taste and thermal is temperature. This siloed approach is changing. Now brands are accessing multiple senses simultaneously to better support well-being outcomes, amplify wellness experiences and influence behavioral change—think using multiple sensory cues, in a harmonious way to deepen meditation.
Biohacking. Biohacking is the attempt to control biology and defy disease, decay and death so people can become superhuman. In the past, people developed low-tech hacks such as fasting, isolation, chanting, yoga, martial arts, body temperature manipulations, and traditional medicines to increase their health and well-being. However, a new trend in biohacking features technology such as artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfaces, sensorless-sensing, CRISPR, xenobotics, nanobotics, probiotics, morphoceuticals, 3D-tissue-printing, cloud-computing and blockchain technologies. These offerings allow people to manipulate molecules, modify genes, manage microbes, create living robots, regenerate body parts, seamlessly monitor and track health metrics, and manipulate sensory inputs.
Faith. The pandemic led to a resurgence of faith, and the corporate world is embracing it, according to the report. While diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in workplaces have focused on race, gender, sexual orientation and marginalized populations, one aspect that’s been left out of the conversation is now emerging: faith. As global workplaces become radically reshaped to address inclusivity, purpose and employee well-being, more companies are now tapping into the full identity of their employees by including religion as a full-fledged part of their DEI commitments—encouraging employees to form official company-sponsored groups around their faith, just as companies encourage women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ groups to do.
The “Future of Wellness 2023” can be purchased here.
The report emerges from the insights of hundreds of global executives from wellness companies, economists, doctors, investors, academics and technologists that gather each year at the Summit. This year, in addition to having journalists and analysts as authors, the trend-spotters include experts in that field—whether doctors, economists or urban futurists.