MONTHLY BAROMETER

It is often said that technology destroys jobs but not work. True indeed. But many new jobs are being created beyond tech. “Pet wellness”—a fast-growing business—is one such example. Although why some of us (in increasing numbers) treat our animals as if they were humans is not easy to explain, the investment case of anthropomorphism is incontrovertible.

This year, pet spending in the US will exceed $72 billion, while in China it will increase by 50 percent (over three years: from 2016 to 2019). Forty percent goes toward the progressive “humanification” of pet food (we can now buy pumpkin spice lattes for our dogs), but pet grooming and boarding is an expanding proportion of that amount (around a tenth).

Spas for dogs and cats are now becoming common, and so are dog tuxedos and bow ties for weddings! This is an example of how fast the realm of wellness is expanding, and, as a result, how it is increasingly difficult to define what wellness is all about (is pet wellness, apart from the pleasure it can give to the pet’s owner, really wellness?).

To illustrate the point about the “conceptual confusion” of where wellness begins and ends, and hence the need for clarity, consider the following: Every policymaker, business executive and investor is aware that tackling the challenge of aging will compel a fundamental change in societal attitudes, public policy and innovation. This is already underway, and the future of aging is one in which new technologies, such as sensors, algorithms, autonomous vehicles and robotic assistants, should enable elderly people to age independently and “well.”

“Well” is the word that matters here: Health is now defined not merely as the absence of disease but as an asset that requires lifelong investment through wellness. Sooner than we realize, every individual will have a unique healthy aging profile that tracks multiple dimensions of wellness.

Physical, mental, social and material wellness is relatively well understood, but moving forward, other dimensions of wellness will emerge. To give a few examples, we’ll start addressing cognitive wellness associated with wearables, implantables and also new breakthrough drugs. Home robots and autonomous vehicles will have a new bearing on social wellness by helping seniors to engage and remain mobile. We could go and on, but the point is this: The wellness universe will expand and with it the need to properly delineate the boundaries of the wellness industry.

 

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