$4.2 trillion and growing—but what exactly is wellness?

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

$4.2 trillion and growing—but what exactly is wellness?

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In an effort to help leaders in governance and business understand this prosperous movement, The Global Wellness Institute is publishing a series of papers, covering the megatrends behind the movement, the history of wellness, terminology, and what it all means economically and socially.

Founded in 2014, The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) is a non-profit specializing in research and education for the wellness industry. Through its initiatives, events, and advocacy, the group endeavors to “help prevent disease, reduce stress, and enhance the overall quality of life,” ​according to a recent press release about the Understanding Wellness series of papers.

“Wellness is a concept that is both ancient and contemporary,” ​observes GWI senior researcher Ophelia Yeung. (Yeung coauthored the Understanding Wellness series along with GWI senior researcher Katherine Johnston.)

“Because of that,” ​she says, “most people have an intuitive understanding of what it means, how to apply it to daily life, or how to create business opportunities out of it.”

Despite the fact that most people know what wellness is, understanding it as an industry isn’t always easy. Event though, “the wellness economy is now a $4.2 trillion global industry,” ​Yeung says, “the questions that we most often encounter are: ‘What is wellness?’ ‘Why is it growing?’ and ‘What does it really mean?’”

Beauty is wellness

Personal care, beauty, and anti-aging comprise the largest segment of the wellness economy. And this has been true for years. (Read this 2017 Cosmetics Design article​ featuring GWI data to learn more.) Other segments include fitness, nutrition, preventative medicine, wellness tourism, and the spa industry.

Why is wellness growing?

The first question GWI answers with the Understanding Wellness series is ‘Why is wellness growing?’ And the organization points to 4 main factors: an aging global population, environmental crisis, untenable healthcare systems, and changing consumer values.

Forthcoming topics in the Understanding Wellness series include “important definitions and terminologies, a thorough history of wellness, and the wellness movement’s social and economic implications,” ​according to the organization’s press release.

GWI senior researcher Johnston describes the series’ background saying, “Over the last 11 years, our work has focused on defining and measuring the industries that comprise the wellness economy—and GWI has become the leading resource for wellness industry data. Through that work, we have built up a vast conceptual knowledge of wellness, its drivers, and its implications. We’re excited to present foundational information about wellness through this new white paper series.”

Access the GWI Understanding Wellness series here​.



Deanna Utroske, CosmeticsDesign.com Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

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