Cultural Tension: Chasing Wellness

September 29, 2023

We have closely followed the growing societal interest and investment into social, emotional, and physical health over the last several years (our 2022 Cultural Themes Report identified Ubiquitous Wellness as one of three defining trends in consumer behavior). The wellness industry represented 5.3% of global economic output in 2020, and that share has only grown throughout the pandemic and beyond. Meanwhile, a mass movement to destigmatize mental health concerns has pushed conversations around previously taboo topics like depression and anxiety into the mainstream.

But efforts to improve mental health haven't necessarily paid off, at least on a macro level. The percentage of adults with a mental illness who report unmet need for treatment has increased every year since 2011 (despite a 38.8% jump in usage of mental healthcare services among adults with private insurance from 2019-2022). Last week, Lululemon’s 2023 Global Wellbeing Report revealed that 67% of people consider wellbeing a “top priority,” but only 12% of people feel satisfied with their level of wellness.


Gen Z in particular has gained a reputation for investing in self-care and talking openly about mental illness (74% of Gen Z feel it is important to talk about mental health). But according to Spotify’s data, the age group’s top searched term globally is “sad.” The CDC found that 30% of teenage girls contemplated suicide in 2021 in a study that led The U.S. General Surgeon to declare children’s mental health a national emergency.

2021 saw more than $4.3 billion in venture capital funding go to mental health companies. There is absolutely a need for improvement (and increased access) in mental health treatment, but the data suggests that we may need to look elsewhere to actually help people live happier lives.

The most impactful mental health companies might not be “mental health companies” at all. There is a massive opportunity for emerging brands – across sectors – to tackle the root causes of America’s mental health crisis, whether through building community, combating loneliness, getting people moving, or just providing a bit of escapist relief.

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