With new year resolution season in full swing (against a backdrop of more political, social and cultural unrest), this week’s 52INSIGHTS explores a selection of youth health trends for 2021 - in a year where, with much credit to Covid-19 influences, health and wellbeing are set to be a major priority in the collective consciousness.
SELF-CARE = SELF-PRIORITISATION
“A desire for good mental health is the driving force behind our pursuit of health and wellness...On average, young people around the world rate their health a 6.9 out of 10. Those who are struggling with their overall health often attributed it to being anxious, depressed, or feeling a lack of purpose.” Vice, 2020
The shift in self-care behaviours that we are seeing right now is toward a focus on self-prioritisation. Self-prioritisation, as it is currently manifesting in popular youth culture, is an intentional act of slowing down and being more considered in your actions and how they impact your (emotional and physical) wellness on a daily basis and into the long term.
This mindset is intrinsically connected to the ongoing public health crisis and experience - we've all had to really think about and have empathy for other people's health at a societal (national and international) level as well as our own health and, of course, the health of the planet. Self-prioritisation therefore is not only something intrinsic to an individuals behaviour - it is about prioritising personal health and wellness habits (and making them sustainable) in the broader context of society at large.
There is a seismic shift happening in the way healthcare is delivered - we’re getting geekier about it as tech transforms the traditional primary care experience and the role of the family doctor is disrupted. We have already started to see the rapid digitisation of health services - and Covid-19 saw an acceleration of this (eg. smartphone apps & detection alerts), with huge investment going into building tech that encourages smarter health governance and personalization. The digitization of the patient experience will continue to be a focus for 2021. Individuals want to be able to access, track and understand easily - 41% of Gen Z (and one-third of millennials) prefer digital encounters with physicians over in-person visits - they are ‘on demand’ and mobile. Importantly, this is also reflective of the increased faith in science - “More than half of young people will seek science-backed information more than they did before COVID-19...making data-backed decisions.” Vice 2020
Examples of trends in the digital health space include:
- Increased use of wearables - 80% of the impact on people’s health is as a result of their environment, lifestyle, and socioeconomic status. As a result, health wearables are “becoming a key tool in the fight against lifestyle diseases, as they can monitor the impact of specific activities such as quality of sleep, number of daily steps, distance traveled, and calories burned.”
- Demand for mobile app daily support - from apps like Calm and Booster Buddy for mental health management, to digital contraception apps like NaturalCycles, young people are optimising ways to manage their health on their phones on a day to day basis.
- Surge in appetite for at home testing - Sh:24 is a new public pilot programme of at home STI tests by the HSE in Ireland. (The LetsGetChecked at home STI service announced 160 new jobs recently).
DIGITAL NUTRITION (AGENCY & TECH CONSUMPTION)
"The drug business can be as virtual as it is real, it's not just powders and pills, it's powerful reactions with your brain… On average, consuming digital content now accounts for more than half of the hours in our day – more time than we spend eating, drinking and sleeping combined." Michael Moskowitz, founder of digital health innovator, AeBeZe Labs.
Another key trend on this topic is the growing interest in digital nutrition itself - looking at how younger generations are increasingly looking for ways to medicate against ‘digital drugs’ and the mental health impacts of social media use.
MINDFUL CONSUMPTION (FOOD & DRINK)
“In this new context, more people will realize that the restrictive dieting so commonplace in wellness no longer serves their physical or emotional well-being.” Jessie Van Amburg
Across food and drink, we see young people seeking out alternatives that are 'better' - from drinking less but better, to low/no alcohol drink choices to less processed food experiences that involve preparation from scratch - all mindful decision-making that feed into overall self-prioritsation efforts.
The conversation around more sustainable diets (for people and planet) have skyrocketed. Veganuary 2021 is the biggest yet. Again, thanks to Covid-19 lockdowns, people have had more time to explore cooking different meals at home - and to consider dairy and meat alternatives. On the other hand, intuitive (or mindful) eating has also grabbed our attention recently - a response to restrictive diets, it looks at how people can make peace with food, reconnect with the body and stop policing themselves based on expectations or strict morals. This should mean more personalisation in the nutrition space. We’re also seeing a rise in science-based functional claims, so we're on the lookout for functional claims rooted in science.
“In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published findings claiming that one-third of adults are not getting enough sleep and that sleep deprivation is costing the country some $400 billion each year in productivity.” Kelsey Mckinney, TIME
Sleep is a big business and sleepcare has seen a renewed focus of late - in 2020, according to a study conducted by King's College London, about “60% of us have experienced worse sleep thanks to anxieties around the pandemic.” Quality sleep will be a continued quest into the year ahead, with people looking to the likes of audio stimuli, aid paraphernalia (lots of product innovation here! Check this example.) and personal unwinding rituals to create the ultimate sleep experience.
The global pleasure industry is also set for a continued boost, following the boom in sales over the pandemic (sales data for sex toy brand Womanizer - who recently partnered with Lily Allen - show sales numbers are well above projections, with global data year to date showing more than a 50% surge on original forecasts). According to MarketDataForecast, next-gen vibrators are at the forefront of the new sexual wellness revolution - it’s an industry set to grow globally to reach $40.4 billion by 2025. This is largely driven by young women changing attitudes toward self pleasure: “Representations of sex still need a huge shake up, even in 2021… Women orgasm 65 per cent of the time versus 93 per cent for men.” Cecile Gasnault, marketing director at Smile Makers, and creator of Vulva Talks
WELLNESS & FASHION
Wellness trends have also impacted fashion - we’ve seen an explosion of appetite for fitness/athleisure/work from home comfort brands that are helping people to optimise Covid-19 living by feeling comfortable and enabling at-home exercise. This is also relevant in how young people say they intend to exercise post-Covid-19, with a focus on feeling good rather than necessarily trying to look good:
“Nature will become our gym: Sixty-four percent of people say they will go for runs and walks, 38 percent will go for bike rides, and 35 percent will go hiking as part of their post-COVID workout routine.” Vice 2020
Brand health is something we’ve all heard about before, but self-prioritisation and ‘feeling good’ is a new lens with which to approach thinking about your brand, as we head into 2021. What would make your brand feel good to people rather than just look good?
As wellness becomes optimised and more personalised, it becomes personal. With this, wellness habits or routines can be seen as ways to be active about issues youth care about - from gender equality and female pleasure to climate justice and spending time in nature. How can you show up in ways that reflect a new appreciation for putting yourself first, while still having positive public benefit?