An Expanded Definition for the Wellness Industry: Is It Really Worth Nearly $ 4 Billion?



The UN's '2016 World Happiness Report' finds that the US ranks a depressing 85th among nations when it comes to equality in wellbeing amongst its citizens. And now more than ever the country needs more mental wellness solutions and more wellness offers for the 'other 99% …
Susie Ellis, Chairman and CEO, Global Wellness Institute


Alvin Toffler, famous for the 1970 mega hit "Future Shock" (six million copies sold), wrote:

One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell REAL from unreal. Soon we'll need a new definition.

OK, I admit Toffler did not capitalize "REAL," the four letters that I've come to believe represent the best qualities of the wellness concept, but the quote is real, suddenless. He did write that. It seems a fitting way to raise the subject of defining wellness and, more important, assessing what it should entail.

There is no single, universally accepted definition of wellness, not even amongst those few who promote it professionally or live in a manner considered wellness-friendly. Fine. There is no potentate who could do such a thing. Instead, we have many definitions. First, there is my definition, which is the best, absolutely HUGE and should be accepted by everyone. While I am opposed to displays of the Decalogue on courthouse steps or other government spaces, I can not see any harm in having tasteful plaques of my REAL wellness definition in such public squares, as well as churches, for that matter. Who would object?

REAL wellness addresses reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty. Within these dimensions are the five elements of well-being that Gallup measures annually: life purpose, social engagement, financial security, sense of community and physical health. REAL wellness also encompasses many other elements that factor into quality of life. According to the latest Gallup poll assessment, if you live in America, best to live in Hawaii, # 1, not West Virginia, # 50. Alas, most who live in the latter do not have much choice – they must struggle upstream towards wellness, without a highly supportive environmental tide.

However, as noted, mine is not the first or only definition of wellness. Halbert L. Dunn created the first definition, which influenced many of those that followed. Dr. Dunn described wellness as a change process wherein one moves forward towards a higher potential of functioning). Dr. John Travis followed with a view of the concept wherein individuals progressed on a wellness energy system along a continuum from illness towards 12 dimensions of well being). Probably the most widely adopted is the Hettler / NWI model wherein wellness is seen as a conscious, self-directing and evolving evolution along six dimensions … blah blah blah.

Multiple definitions have followed, authored by nearly everyone who ever attended a National Wellness Conference, wrote or read a book on wellness or thought to promote a product, business, center or treatment of one kind or another. Like myself, most wellness definition writers take a page from the Catholic Church, insisting that their is the one, true expression of wellness. Well, they can not all be true because they're different and together, it's too early in the game to fix upon any one as being best. Andides, it's not polite. We should always be polite.

If I were to channel my inner Trump, I'd say they all suck, except mine. Believe me – losers. Total disaster. Sad. Crooked. The work of so-called definition writers. Pitiful. Not nice. Boring. So unfair.

But, why would I do that? Even if I had an inner Trump driving me to go low, I'd at least consider the other direction. But, I like to think I'm inner demon-less, so let me proceed. Where was I?

Oh yes, definitions. Let's start with a big picture and proceed from there.

The Global Wellness Economy

One wellness organization, previously, the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), produced an annual document on trends in wellness based on research in ten markets. The GWI also provides its own definition of the global wellness industry. By including ten varied sectors considered wellness-oriented, it claims that wellness worldwide is an industry worth $ 3.72 trillion.

Wow. Who knew? The report is worth a read by wellness promoters, enthusiasts and others interested in wellness generally and the varied markets identified.

Included in the report are data on twenty national markets for wellness travel, spa and workplace wellness. Projections are made for growth rates. Consider these findings:

* China made the largest gains (more than 300 percent) in wellness tourism revenues.

* America is # 1 – The "Wellness Nation!" (You can guess who in Washington, DC will welcome that!)

* The five key markets for which data are analyzed in the US are wellness tourism, the spa industry, workplace wellness, wellness real estate and thermal / mineral springs.

* The category "wellness travel dollars spend" reveals that the US generates three times more wellness tourism spending than the second largest market, Germany.

* The spa sector is the largest of all global markets, and here, too, the US contracts twice the revenue than the next country, China.

* From 2013 to 2016, 1,569 additional spas opened in America.

Workplace and Lifestyle Real Estate Markets

The revenue flow in the workplace market in the US is estimated to be $ 43.3 billion. Employers spend $ 14.4 billion annually, significantly more than Japan ($ 3.4 billion) and Germany (3.1 billion), the next largest markets. This is not a surprise finding, given that health (medical) care in this country is usually provided by employers. Thus, there remains a corporate incentive to reduce such costs and boost productivity.

This lifestyle real estate market consists of global commercial property transactions in residential, hospitality and mixed-used categories that incorporated wellness elements. Examples include social and environmental health in the design, construction, services, amenities and / or programming elements. For 2015, the estimate of this market is $ 118.6 billion.

Wellness Trends in the World of Trump

How might our new president's policies and personality affect these markets of the wellness movement? GWI identifies five scenarios owed to or at least affected by the new age of Trump, including a surge in the number of buildings, bridges, towns, rivers and streets renamed TRUMP. This will be seen as a cranial for wellness entrepreneurs seeking Federal funding.

Just kidding.

Here are the main US wellness trends potentially affected by the Trump presidency identified in this GWI report:

* Lots of "mental wellness programming" at hotels, wellness resorts, spas, fitness studios, workplaces and schools. (I think we needed such a surge before Trump, but his election certainly demonstrated the need.)

* Trickle down wellness. The inequality backlash that boosted Trump into the White House will spark a commitment within the industry to be less conspicuous about programs and services that enable patrons to avoid exciting the envy of their neighbors. Good riddance $ 300 yoga pants and Reiki sessions, hello healthy groceries, budget spa brands, pricing based on income and other lower price point initiatives.

* A shift in focus of wellness culture to be more on "mind" than "body." Program priority examples range from meditation, sleep health and new apps that track mental wellness and stress.

* Hold it down! (That is, lower the volume, please.) Silence as a bit of relief from the world of 24/7 connectedness and shrieking news / noise. Look for offers of silent spas, "wellness monasteries in sacred spaces and deep nature" (hello Deepak Chopra) and hotels / resorts with quiet room / zone floor labels and digital kill switches. Restaurants, gyms, hair salons, stores and airports not exempted from this trend.

* Wellness at home. More Americans shaping their homes as wellness nests or sanctuaries. This takes such forms as "installing circadian lighting to biophilic (architecture of life) design." Also, many choosing to live in wellness-focused communities.

* Growth in wellness markets. In part, this trend reflects expected economic downtowns, the repeal of the ACA, loss of women's health programs and medical cost inflation averaging nearly six percent annually through 2025. Wellness markets will benefit as more citizens seek relief from these perturbations into exercise / yoga / meditation and other wellness, life-enriching diversions. Wellness will be a partial bright side to the insecurities rampant in an over-connected, chaotic world.


Wellness is defined by GWI as "the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health." By defining the wellness economy to encompass industries that enable consumers to incorporate wellness activities and lifestyles into their daily lives, "a bright side estimate of wellness as a $ 3.72 billion market is made possible.

For those who write definitions and particularly those who promote wellness of one kind or another in the US and around the world, trend information can be invaluable. I remember how much I benefited from two seminal documents that sparked the wellness movement half century ago. These two reports were the 1974 "A New Perspective on the Health of Canadians" and the 1979 Surgeon's General's report on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, entitled, "Healthy People."



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