Higher Wellness Spending Corresponds to Greater Happiness, Longevity, Per GWI Research

Money may not buy happiness, but spending money on wellness may increase happiness and longevity, according to research from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a nonprofit global research and educational resource for the wellness industry.

For every $844 annual increase in wellness expenditures per person, happiness levels increase seven percent, and for every $769 spent per capita, life expectancy increases 1.26 years, the research found.

GWI released the “Defining Wellness Policy” report at the  Global Wellness Summit held this week in Tel Aviv, Israel. The report includes a definition of wellness, an evidence-backed argument about why governments need a wellness policy, and quantitative analysis that determines the relationship between wellness spending, health outcomes and happiness across countries.

“As we dived into this research, it quickly became obvious that health and wellness should be embedded in the priorities for all policymaking,” said Katherine Johnston, GWI senior research fellow. “As compared to sustainability – which has been in policy conversations for so long – it is astonishing that no one has talked about wellness as a comprehensive, cross-cutting policy category in government circles. The health of people should be paramount, just like the health of the planet, and really, the two go hand-in-hand. We hope that this study and GWI’s upcoming wellness policy toolkits will kickstart a global conversation and more research in this area.”

GWI will release a series of Wellness Policy Toolkits in 2023 to provide governments, non-profits, communities and businesses a roadmap about how to take action in seven domains of wellness policy: physical activity, healthy eating, mental wellness, traditional/complementary medicine, wellness in the built environment, wellness at work, and wellness in tourism.

More on the Findings

Across countries, for every $844 increase in wellness spending per person, the average happiness level increases by nearly 7 percent. An increase of $769 in wellness spending per capita is associated with 1.26 years of extra life. While correlation does not necessarily mean causation, these results signal that there are health and well-being benefits from wellness spending, GWI said.

A forthcoming GWI white paper will expand on these results, analyzing the relationships between spending in each wellness sector — whether physical activity, healthy food, traditional medicine, or mental wellness — and how it’s associated with outcome measures for health and happiness.

To identify the relationship between wellness spending, happiness levels and health outcomes, GWI researchers partnered with Dr. Shun Wang, a key author and statistician of the World Happiness Report. Utilizing data from GWI’s wellness economy reports (measuring wellness spending in more than 200 markets), Gallup’s World Poll (for global happiness measurements), and the World Bank (for national life expectancy and income levels) — and then adjusting for wealth levels and population size — a regression analysis revealed striking findings. 

“This is the first time that anyone has analyzed wellness economy spending alongside data on happiness and life expectancy, and we found that investment in wellness is definitely linked to positive outcomes in these metrics,” said Ophelia Yeung, GWI senior research fellow. “We believe that wellness policy is crucial for bringing the benefits of wellness to everyone, especially to those who cannot pay for it or who face barriers to living a healthy lifestyle.”

GWI also worked to define a “wellness policy,” saying that it is “a set of cross-cutting actions that encourage healthy lifestyles and create supportive environments for human health and well-being.” Wellness policy is specifically focused on prevention, lifestyle changes, and the many environmental factors that affect well-being.

GWI’s Wellness Policy series aims to build common language, frameworks, and strategies for governments, industry, and communities to work toward the goal of wellness for all. The report released today establishes why wellness is the missing link in policy, and how wellness policy can uniquely address the gaps in the current movements attempting to tackle our cascading health crises.