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Don’t call it a comeback: What health means to consumers today

As we get busier and more distracted every day, key priorities like health often fall to the wayside.  But interestingly, health and fitness (defined as “making an effort to be in good physical and mental shape”) is a rising value globally; currently, it’s #12 on a list of 50 personal values tracked by GfK Consumer Life, up four ranks since 2011.  And nearly half (48%) of Americans believe that their eating habits, diet and overall health are better than their parents were at their age, a 6-point jump from 2012.

After years of being back-burnered by the Great Recession, people finally feel ready to take a more active role in their own wellness.  But the return of health brings new questions: what does health mean to today’s consumer?

Mind + body matters

Most (69%) Americans agree that a key aspect of good health is “having a positive, optimistic state of mind and outlook on life” – #4 on a list of 12 possible health descriptors.  As new outlooks on health emerge, this is a critical one.  No longer are people consumed just with the number on their scale or the size of their jeans – they need to feel good, not just look good.  This outlook is more pronounced among those who are 60+, perhaps due to enhanced expectations for a longer, happier life.

New nuances to fitness

Almost six in ten (58%) Americans believe that “being physically fit” is included in their definition of “good health” – but it’s a bit more complex than that.  Other dimensions of physical fitness are actually ranked higher on this list, including the ability to do daily activities without obstacles (78%) and avoiding obesity (62%).  This heightened awareness of the impacts of fitness are evident in the top physical concerns Americans share about aging – gaining weight (34%) and loss of mobility (34%) are among the top five items on this list.

With that in mind, it may come as no surprise that nearly two in three (65%) Americans exercise to keep fit weekly or more often; this habit is up six points since 2012.  And one in three (32%) admit that physical movement helps them treat health conditions they have.

“Whole person” customization

The marketplace for health and wellness solutions has expanded in recent years to include many more players.  Tech companies are competing with pharmaceutical leaders, and startups are often able to deliver solutions faster and more efficiently than more established brands.

This is good news for the consumer.  Not only are there more products and services to choose from, the ability to personalize one’s wellness regimen has accelerated tremendously.  There’s a combination of solutions for everyone, whether it’s aging consumers who are focused on declining mobility and memory, younger individuals who care strongly about fitness, or the affluent audience drawn to more preventative health solutions.

With wellness finally back on the front burner for consumers around the world and new spaces for a variety of companies to play a role, discussion of what “health” is will continue to grow – opening doors to new ideas on how to live healthfully.

Rachel Bonsignore is a Senior Consultant for GfK Consumer Life.  She can be reached at rachel.bonsignore@gfk.com.

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