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Global Wellness Institute reports mental wellness to be a $121 billion market

Global Wellness Institute reports mental wellness to be a $121 billion market
November 11, 2020

The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) has released its major research report for 2020 – ‘Defining the Mental Wellness Economy’-  the first study to define mental wellness as opposed to mental health and to clarify the key concepts and pathways. It’s also the first research to measure mental wellness as a global industry and to identify and benchmark its key sub-segments.

It is the first research report to define, analyse and size the global mental wellness economy with the in-depth (115-page) report finding that the global mental wellness economy is worth $120.8 billion, based on consumer spend in four markets: senses, spaces and sleep ($49.5 billion), brain-boosting nutraceuticals & botanicals ($34.8 billion), self-improvement ($33.6 billion), and meditation and mindfulness ($2.9 billion).

Mental wellness becomes a new ‘industry bubble’ in the GWI’s Global Wellness Economy framework, capturing a crucial set of economic activities not previously included in the organisation’s wellness economy measurements.

GWI senior research fellow, Ophelia Yeung advises “stress, loneliness and burnout were exploding pre-pandemic, and a stronger focus on mental wellness has been a cultural mega-shift these last few years: People awakening to the importance of integrative solutions including meditation, sleep and brain health, with businesses rushing in to offer all kinds of solutions. But mental wellness as a concept, and what constitutes it as an industry, has remained incredibly fuzzy.

“Clarifying what it is, and delineating its business segments, is overdue. And while most mental wellness strategies are free–like spending time in nature or with friends–people increasingly seek non-clinical help in coping with everyday mental challenges, and that’s where the mental wellness industry comes in.”

GWI senior research fellow, Katherine Johnston added “there is urgency to this research: Study after study shows how the human suffering and economic dislocations caused by the pandemic have ravaged our mental wellbeing. We’re excited to release this study because people are desperate for alternative strategies to cope, and we hope it clarifies how important it is to promote mental wellness–and how businesses, governments and individuals can all play different roles in addressing a growing crisis."

Defining Mental Wellness vs. Mental Health

The GWI defines mental wellness as ‘an internal resource that helps us think, feel, connect, and function. It is an active process that helps us to build resilience, grow, and flourish’.

The report provides a comprehensive paradigm for understanding the difference between ‘mental health’ and ‘mental wellness’, impossible to replicate here. The authors propose a ‘dual continuum model’, in which mental wellness is a dynamic process of moving from languishing, to resilience, to flourishing. Key strategies for mental wellness fall into four pathways: activity and creativity; growth and nourishment; rest and rejuvenation; and connection and meaning.

The Mental Wellness Industry: What’s Included and Why

The research is the first to define the mental wellness industry: ‘Encompassing businesses whose primary aim is to help us along the mental wellness pathways of growth and nourishment and rest and rejuvenation.’ Within those pathways, it identifies four sectors coalescing to form an emerging market: 1) senses, spaces and sleep, 2) brain-boosting nutraceuticals & botanicals, 3) self-improvement and 4) meditation and mindfulness.

The report carefully explains what is included in the mental wellness industry, what’s not, and why. The four segments were chosen because they’re the ones most closely identified by consumers and businesses as explicitly associated with mental wellness. It doesn’t include solutions that may be very beneficial for mental wellness but whose primary purpose is something else (e.g., fitness, healthy foods, arts and literature, pets), or anything in the medical arena (e.g., psychotherapy or sleep labs).

The Mental Wellness Economy:

Senses, spaces, and sleep - $49.5 billion

The largest mental wellness sector, this category spans products, services, and design that target our senses and the mind-body connection, with the growing understanding that environmental stimuli have a major impact on our mood, stress levels and sleep. Sleep is the goliath sub-segment, with an exploding array of sleep- and sleep-environment-optimising solutions, including smart bedding and sleep accessories; sleep apps, wearables and trackers; and sleep retreats and nap cafés.

The segment includes sound (sound therapy, white noise, noise cancellation and wellness music); scent (aromatherapy, home fragrances and diffusers); touch (stress toys and gadgets and weighted blankets); and light (human-centric light and light therapy consumer devices). It includes multisensory experiences (from flotation tanks to forest bathing) at wellness travel, spa, fitness and entertainment destinations and sensory-based design and architecture (i.e., biophilic design and circadian lighting).

Brain-boosting nutraceuticals & botanicals -$34.8 billion

Ingestible products with the specific goal of improving mental health and wellbeing, including natural supplements, herbals and botanicals, and functional foods and beverages, are proliferating–claiming to boost brain health, sleep, memory and energy.

The category also includes plant-based drugs increasingly used for mental wellness, with the legal cannabis and its derivatives market exploding in the last couple of years, with cannabis, hemp, and CBD making their way into many supplements, foods, and beverages. The segment also includes psilocybin and other functional mushrooms, with the former seeing a rapid acceleration in clinical research for use for almost every mental health and wellness issue. A quickening relaxation of regulation means plant-based psychedelic drugs will increasingly be used for both mental wellness and clinical treatment purposes. For instance, in the United States, Oregon has legalised magic mushrooms and the District of Columbia has decriminalised the recreational use of psilocybin and other psychedelics.

Self-Improvement - $33.6 billion

This segment spans a wide range of activities typically associated with self-help and personal development, including self-help books, media, video, apps and online platforms; self-help gurus and influencers; personal and life coaches; organisations delivering classes, workshops and retreats; self-help organisations and mutual support groups; cognitive enhancement and brain training products/services; and new, creative organisations, apps and online platforms combatting loneliness and isolation.

Meditation and mindfulness– $2.9 billion  

While meditation and mindfulness are perhaps the approaches most firmly associated with ‘mental wellness’, it’s the smallest (if an extremely fast-growing) market, because while millions of people worldwide practice meditation, only a small fraction spend money on it.

The category includes all forms of meditation practice, related mindfulness practices (e.g., breathwork, guided imagery, body scan, relaxation exercises), and products and services that support these practices. Key spending categories include classes, teachers, retreats, books and online platforms – with mobile apps (such as Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer) a huge driver of consumer adoption and spend. There is a growing market for meditation accessories (e.g., cushions, beads, chimes) and mindfulness products (e.g., journals, colouring books), as well as a fast-growing range of connected gadgets, trackers and monitors to support meditation (e.g., headbands, glasses, wearable sensors, lamps) – many of which build upon biofeedback, neurofeedback, and virtual reality technologies.

The analysis of each of these four markets includes historical background and the modern evolution of the space, the key companies and market innovators, and business models and developments to watch. 

The full report is available to in-person and virtual 2020 Global Wellness Summit delegates; Virtual access (including access to all conference keynotes and panels) can be purchased anytime.

Image top courtesy of Centennial Park/ Louise Kiddell: Sydney’s Centennial Park Forest Bathing or Nature Connection Walks help people to restore and regenerate themselves through remembering the simple pleasures in the natural world around them. Sensory immersion in nature helps us to access the calm alert state we try to reach through meditation but often find difficult to achieve.

The Forest Bathing is guided by Louise Kiddell who is one of the first certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guides in Australia. Louise guides participants through activities inspired by Shinrin-yoku, including sensory awareness walks, guided meditation and bush tea ceremonies.

For more information go to

Image above: Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort in Oman was awarded for Best Wellness Programme in the Luxury Spa Awards of Excellence

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