Excerpt from “Defining the Mental Wellness Economic”, written by
Ophelia Yeung and Katherine Johnston, Senior Research Fellow,
The Global Wellness Institute
We estimate that the global mental wellness industry was worth $120.8 billion in 2019. This estimate represents consumer expenditures on the four subsectors that we have identified, focusing on proactive, wellness-focused, consumer- and private sector-driven activities (that is, things outside of the psychiatry, psychology, and clinical/medical spheres). The four sectors are:
- Senses, spaces, & sleep
- Brain-boosting nutraceuticals & botanicals
- Meditation & mindfulness
Senses, spaces, & sleep is the largest subsector (at $49.5 billion), followed by Brain-boosting nutraceuticals & botanicals ($34.8 billion) and Self-improvement ($33.6 billion), which are similar in size. Meditation & mindfulness is the smallest subsector, at $2.9 billion; it is important to keep in mind that millions of people around the world practice meditation, but only a small fraction of them spend any money on the practice.
These figures are broad, and global estimates that we have aggregated are based on a wide range of secondary data sources.
So how to interpret these numbers? What does a 2019 market size estimate mean, given the global upheaval unleashed by COVID-19 in 2020?
The mental wellness industry figures presented above can serve as a 2019 baseline on which to anticipate the future. Clearly, the human suffering and economic dislocations caused by the pandemic have negatively impacted our mental health and well-being, and therefore have increased demand for mental wellness pathways and solutions on a global scale.
Companies in some segments – such as those delivering virtual solutions, home entertainment, and vitamins and supplements – have reported an upswing in demand during the pandemic. However, since disposable income and consumer confidence have taken a severe hit worldwide, consumer spending is shrinking across many industries. The pandemic has also accelerated the global trend of polarization and concentration of income and wealth. Therefore, future opportunities will depend upon how a business provides value to its targeted consumer segment, such as luxury versus mass market. Some businesses may also face increasing competition from mental wellness activities that people have learned to do on their own, or free/affordable amenities and services provided by governments, communities, and nonprofits.
This is the first time a global mental wellness industry has been defined. However, the boundaries across the four mental wellness subsectors above are not clearly delineated. For example, a mindfulness workshop or retreat would fit into the meditation & mindfulness subsector, while a life coach could also provide guidance on mindfulness practices (which fits in the self-improvement subsector). Sound healing and aromatherapy products (e.g., gongs, chimes, incense, candles) fit in the senses, spaces, & sleep subsector, but are also often used as accessories for meditation & mindfulness.
By singling out four subsectors, we are not implying that these are the most important or most effective practices for pursuing mental wellness. They are simply the practices that are most closely and proactively identified by businesses and consumers as being related to mental wellness. There are many things we can and should do to support our mental wellness that are not a business opportunity and do not require spending money (like spending time in nature, joining a spiritual community, or listening to music).
As an emerging sector, many mental wellness practices and products have not yet accumulated extensive clinical evidence when compared to the conventional medical and mental health industries (e.g., drugs that treat mental disorders). The regulation of most mental wellness businesses is fragmented, and it is generally left to consumers to determine whether they believe in and find benefit from them or not.
However, a body of evidence is quickly growing – especially for some modalities, like meditation, light therapy, and circadian science – bolstered by an acceleration of public and private research investments. Meanwhile, consumers also need to be educated on the importance of basic healthy habits (exercise, healthy eating, human connections) for their mental health and well-being.
Technology is not a standalone segment within the mental wellness industry, but is pervasive across all subsectors (as described in detail in Chapter V of the full report). Mental health and mental wellness tech startups have become a major target for investors, receiving massive amounts of funding. Investment levels reached $750 million in 2019, a five-fold increase over 2014, while funding has topped $1 billion in the first half of 2020.18 These figures indicate that the perceived growth potential of this segment is huge. An important development is the merging of traditional mental health solutions with mental wellness technology platforms to provide preventive and supplemental care, and some businesses may be seeking to access the resources of a much larger healthcare market, beyond consumer discretionary spending on mental wellness.
About The Global Wellness Institute and the Authors
The Global Wellness Institute (“GWI”) is a non-profit organization based in the United States. GWI is dedicated to advancing research and education in the global wellness economy. Since 2008, GWI’s two senior researchers, Ophelia Yeung and Katherine Johnston, have conducted groundbreaking research and published studies on the definition and measurement of the global wellness economy and its subfields, under the auspices of GWI. https://globalwellnessinstitute.org.