The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health. LEARN MORE
Wellness Economy Defined
The Global Wellness Institute defines the wellness economy as industries that enable consumers to incorporate wellness activities and lifestyles into their daily lives. The wellness economy encompasses 11 sectors, and we use the definitions below for the purposes of measuring each sector. LEARN MORE
- Mental wellness: Consumer spending on activities, products and services whose primary aim is to help us along the mental wellness pathways of growth and nourishment and rest and rejuvenation. It encompasses four subsectors: self-improvement; brain-boosting nutraceutical and botanicals; meditation and mindfulness; and senses, spaces and sleep.
- Physical activity: Consumer spending associated with intentional physical activities performed during leisure and recreation, including three recreational activity subsectors (sports and active recreation, fitness, and mindful movement) and three enabling subsectors (technology, equipment and supplies, and clothing and apparel).
- Wellness real estate: Expenditures on the construction of residential and commercial/institutional (office, hospitality, mixed-use/multifamily, medical, leisure, etc.) properties that incorporate intentional wellness elements in their design, materials and building as well as their amenities, services and/or programming. Note that wellness real estate is broader than (but encompasses) wellness lifestyle real estate, which focuses on the residential component.
- Workplace wellness: Includes expenditures on programs, services, activities and equipment by employers aimed at improving their employees’ health and wellness. These expenditures aim to raise awareness, provide education, and offer incentives that address specific health risk factors and behaviors (e.g., lack of exercise, poor eating habits, stress, obesity, smoking) and encourage employees to adopt healthier lifestyles.
- Wellness tourism: The aggregation of all expenditures made by wellness tourists—primary and secondary, international and domestic—including spending on lodging, food and beverage, activities and excursions, shopping, and in-country transportation.
- Spa economy: Includes the revenues of spa facilities and the related cluster of sectors that support and enable spa businesses. The spa economy includes spa facilities, spa education (for therapists and managers/directors, both initial training and continuing education), spa consulting, spa capital investments, spa associations, and spa-related media and events.
- Thermal/mineral springs: Encompasses the revenues of business establishments associated with the wellness, recreational and therapeutic uses of water with special properties, including thermal water, mineral water and seawater.
- Healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss: Includes consumer expenditures on vitamins and supplements, fortified/functional foods and nutraceuticals, natural and organic foods, health foods, sports nutrition, nutrition and dietary services, and weight loss/management products and services.
- Personal care and beauty: Includes consumer expenditures on beauty and salon services (excluding spas); skin, hair and nail care services and products; cosmetics, toiletries and other personal care products; dermatology; prescription pharmaceuticals for skin care; as well as products and services that specifically address age-related health and appearance issues, such as cosmetics/cosmeceuticals for skin/face/body care, hair care/growth and pharmaceuticals/supplements that treat age-related health conditions.
- Preventive and personalized medicine and public health: Includes expenditures on medical services that focus on treating “well” people, preventing disease, or detecting risk factors—for example, routine physical exams, diagnostic and screening tests, genetic testing, etc. Personalized health uses sophisticated information and data for individual patients (including genetic, molecular, and environmental screening, analysis, and diagnostics; personalized disease management services; and health IT such as electronic health records, telemedicine, and remote patient monitoring) to provide tailored approaches for preventing disease, diagnosing and managing risk factors, or managing and treating conditions.
- Traditional and complementary medicine: Encompasses expenditures on diverse medical, healthcare, holistic, and mentally or spiritually-based systems, services and products that are not generally considered to be part of conventional medicine or the dominant health care system—including homeopathic, naturopathic, chiropractic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, energy healing, traditional/herbal remedies and supplements, etc. The nomenclature for this sector is evolving alongside growing consumer adoption of traditional/indigenous, complementary, alternative and integrative medical practices outside of the conventional/Western medical system.
Mental Wellness Defined
The Global Wellness Institute 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.
Mental wellness is a dynamic, renewable and positive resource; an active process that requires initiative and conscious action; and an internal experience that encompasses multiple dimensions: mental (how we process, understand and use information); emotional (how we manage and express our feelings); social (how we connect with others); and psychological (how we function or “put the pieces together” to make decisions or do things).
We define the mental wellness economy as consumer spending on activities, products and services whose primary aim is to help us along the mental wellness pathways of growth and nourishment and rest and rejuvenation. It encompasses four subsectors: self-improvement; brain-boosting nutraceutical and botanicals; meditation and mindfulness; and senses, spaces and sleep.
Physical Activity Defined
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure—including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, traveling, and engaging in a recreational pursuit.” Physical activities can be broadly divided into natural movement and recreational physical activity:
- Natural movement encompasses the physical activities that are essential to our daily lives, including transportation (e.g., walking and cycling as transportation); occupational (e.g., work that requires manual labor); or domestic movement (e.g., household chores and gardening). These kinds of activities have been the core of physical activity for humankind for millennia. Unfortunately, natural movement is now on the decline around the world, progressively discouraged by our modern lifestyles and built environments.
- We also engage in optional and intentional movement as part of our hobbies and leisure time. Recreational physical activity can include going to the gym, playing sports, taking a walk or cycling for fun, dancing, and children playing on a playground. As natural movement declines, recreational physical activity is becoming essential for a growing number of people to stay healthy.
The Global Wellness Institute defines the global physical activity market as consumer spending associated with intentional physical activities performed during leisure and recreation. The core of the market is the services that allow consumers to participate in three categories of recreational physical activities: fitness, sports and active recreation, and mindful movement. It also includes the supporting sectors that enable and facilitate participation in recreational physical activities: apparel and footwear; fitness equipment, sporting goods, and related supplies; and fitness- and exercise-related technologies.
Wellness Lifestyle Real Estate and Communities Defined
The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness lifestyle real estate and wellness communities as follows:
- Wellness lifestyle real estateis defined as homes that are proactively designed and built to support the holistic health of their residents.
- A wellness communityis a group of people living in close proximity who share common goals, interests and experiences in proactively pursuing wellness across its many dimensions. It can be rooted in a purpose-built physical space or cultivated around shared culture or social networks without purpose-built structures.
GWI’s wellness real estate market data encompass both residential projects (what we refer to as “wellness lifestyle real estate”) and commercial/institutional projects (such as office, hospitality, mixed-use/multifamily, medical and leisure) that have intentional wellness components. However, the primary focus of our research is on residential—the building of homes and neighborhoods with intentional wellness-focused design and amenities.
The wellness elements and features that are being incorporated into wellness lifestyle real estate can span a wide range, and they address the interior, exterior and community/neighborhood features of homes. They may include, but are not limited to:
- Interior features: Building materials with minimal toxicity; air and water purification systems; sound and lighting features that optimize rest and sleep; biophilic, universal, ergonomic and active design features; energy-saving and sustainability features; natural, organic and locally sourced materials.
- Exterior features: Fitness, recreational and spa facilities; walking and cycling paths and trails; social and community spaces; community gardens and organic farms; parks and nature areas; design elements that prioritize walkability, active lifestyles and social interactions; events, classes and community-building activities.
Workplace Wellness Defined
The Global Wellness Institute defines the workplace wellness market as employer expenditures on programs, services, activities and equipment aimed at improving their employees’ health and wellness. These expenditures typically seek to raise awareness, provide education, and offer incentives that encourage employees to adopt healthier lifestyles.
Workplace wellness programs target a wide range of employee behaviors (e.g., lack of exercise, poor eating habits, smoking and lack of sleep) and risk factors (e.g., chronic illness, obesity, addiction, depression and stress). Programs can encompass a variety of services, products and platforms, including health screening assessments; diagnostic testing; in-house amenities or subsidized memberships for fitness clubs and exercise classes; healthy food offerings at company cafeterias; wearable fitness trackers; health fairs, educational programming, and counseling services for wellness; and incentives for participation in wellness activities. While some companies may design and administer their own wellness programs, there is now a sizable industry of third-party service providers who can administer these programs for companies. Many private insurance companies also administer wellness programs for the companies whose employees they insure.
Wellness Tourism Defined
The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness tourism as travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing. We identify two types of wellness travelers:
- A primary wellness tourist is a tourist whose trip or destination is primarily motivated by wellness.
- A secondary wellness tourist seeks to maintain wellness while traveling or participates in wellness experiences while taking any type of trip for leisure or business.
We measure wellness tourism by aggregating the trip expenditures of people who are defined as wellness tourists. These expenditures include lodging, food and beverage, activities and excursions, shopping, in-country transportation (travel within the country), and other services (e.g., concierge, telecommunications, travel agent services, travel insurance, etc.). We include expenditures made by both international and domestic wellness travelers.
The Global Wellness Institute defines spas as establishments that promote wellness through the provision of therapeutic and other professional services aimed at renewing the body, mind and spirit. Spa facilities offer a wide variety of services (e.g., massages, facials, body treatments, salon services, water-based treatments, health assessments and more) as well as sales of related products.
Most consumers and industry experts would agree that at its core—no matter its size, form or business model—a spa is an establishment that focuses on wellness. The concepts of wellness, the healing traditions drawn upon, and the therapeutic techniques applied differ dramatically across both nations and types of spas.
Thermal/Mineral Springs Defined
The Global Wellness Institute defines the thermal/mineral springs sector as revenue-earning business establishments associated with the wellness, recreational and therapeutic uses of waters with special properties. Our figures count thermal/mineral springs establishments that operate as a business, and as such, do not include springs that do not have any built facilities and/or do not charge any kind of fee for access. Establishments that use heated water—not naturally sourced thermal/mineral water—are also excluded from this category.
There are many categories and types of thermal/mineral springs establishments, including hot spring swimming pools and waterparks; thermal/mineral water bathing facilities, spas and resorts; and health resorts/sanatoria that used thermal/mineral waters for treatments.