Wellness Industry Growth: Marketing In The Wellness Economy

The Trajectory of Wellness

The massive growth of the wellness industry has made it crucial for health system and hospital marketing teams to integrate health and wellness marketing strategies into their playbook. What used to be a grassroots movement in the field of medicine has morphed into a wellness economy that is strong and growing.

Health and Wellness Industry Statistics

The growth of the wellness economy has been staggering over the past three years. According to Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness industry grew 12.8% from 2015-2017, from a $3.7 trillion to a $4.2 trillion market. To put that in economic context, from 2015-2017, the Institute reports that the wellness economy grew 6.4% annually, nearly twice as fast as global economic growth (3.6%). Wellness expenditures ($4.2 trillion) are now more than half as large as total global health expenditures ($7.3 trillion). And the wellness industry represents 5.3% of global economic output.

In its 2018 Report, the Institute goes on to say that:

All sectors of wellness are dynamic and interconnected, intrinsically linked to the wellness economy as a whole. In the face of longer lifespans, rising chronic disease, stress, and unhappiness, we are reexamining our lives and refocusing our attention on what makes us well – particularly the places and manner in which we live, work, and travel.

Wellness economy sectors growth 2015-2017

Wellness Dimensions

The National Wellness Institute promotes six dimensions of wellness: emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual health. According to Institute co-founder Dr. Bill Hettler, “addressing all six dimensions of wellness in our lives builds a holistic sense of wellness and fulfillment.

six dimensions of wellnessSobering Wellness Statistics

At the same time that interest and participation in wellness activities is growing, Paul Keckley, author of informative The Keckley Report, notes that the wellness of the U.S. population is declining. 

The U.S. spends $11,193 (2018) per person for its healthcare system—the most expensive in the world. Despite this, our overall state of wellness is declining. In the past 10 years, the prevalence of adult obesity has increased 17% to 31% (National Center for Health Statistics) and our level of stress has increased 23% to 6.2 on a 1-10 scale (APA Stress in America Survey). Our smoking rate is down but death by suicide or drug overdose are up.

Keckley goes on to site Gallup-Sharecare’s most recent report, which examined health in 186 U.S. communities. In it, the authors concluded: “Overall, 2017 was a challenging year for Americans’ well-being. The national Well-Being Index score for the U.S. in 2017 was 61.5 – a decline from 62.1 in 2016. This overall drop was characterized by declines in 21 states, easily the largest year-over-year decline in the 10-year history of the Well-Being Index. Not a single state showed statistically significant improvement compared to the previous year, which is also unprecedented in Well-Being Index measurement.”

What It All Means

Consumers are spending to the tune of $200 billion plus on diet programs, healthy foods, gyms, yoga, wearables, vitamins and supplements, digital streaming services like Peloton, self-care apps, etc.  This doesn’t even take into account the $22 billion we’re spending for CBD-based products. But consumers, based on the above statistics, need more than physical wellness.

Again citing Paul Keckley, “our health system excels in taking care of our sick and injured. Our health systems and hospitals offer the world’s most modern facilities and specialized programs and novel therapies, but we fall short in effectively managing the wellness of our populationAnalysis of clinical outcomes — mortality and morbidity rates, adherence to therapeutic directives, admissions and complication rates and others — show a clear correlation between attentiveness to a person’s social circumstances and emotional stability and positive outcomes. 

Matt Stiefel, senior director of the Center for Population Health at Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser points out “if you look at the mission statements of health systems, it’s to improve the health of members and populations. We must pay attention, as this collection of social, economic and behavioral determinants powerfully influences health.”

The Convergence of Traditional Healthcare and Wellness

The melding of the wellness economy with our conventional system of care, and the race to reap the rewards, is underway, There are multiple examples of this convergence. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine is a membership-based organization advancing wellness as a multi-disciplinary specialty among medical professionals and others committed to similar aims. They define lifestyle medicine as…

involving the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic approaches, such as a predominantly whole food, plant-based diet, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substance use, and other non-drug modalities, to prevent, treat, and, oftentimes, reverse the lifestyle-related, chronic disease that’s all too prevalent.

The organization also points to scientific evidence overwhelmingly supporting efficacy of lifestyle medicine.

In an article on beckershospitalreview.com — What hospitals can learn from urgent care centers, trendy wellness clinics and growing cash paying customers — Michael Layfield, CEO Lauderdale Community Hospital, notes I found UCC’s and boutique medical clinics focused on meeting patient need through:

  • accelerating and expanding from their basic traditional footprint, into the world of nutraceutical supplements and vitamins, cenegenics, pharmacogenetics, precision medicine, preventative medicine- offering annual physicals, wellness panels, providing wellness IV’s (mixing “Myers cocktails“ to make you feel better, fight flu, virus, reduce stress/ fatigue and hydrate the skin as a result of accelerated aging)
  • telemedicine via your smart phone or computer, pharmacists consults on demand, massage therapy, podiatry ( toe nail clinic), hearing aids and wellness offering phentermine and lipo/B12for weight loss
  • nifty scheduling and referral systems, web sites

One can also look to the recent mega-deals like Walgreen’s and Humana, CVS and Aetna, Amazon and others, which reflect growing recognition of above along with seeking to disrupt the cost practices of the hospital industry. A more recent example is Weight Watchers rebranding to WW International, to associate the organization with a larger wellness agenda beyond obsessive calorie counting and fad diets.  To retain relevance and appeal to an elusive millennial audience, the organization needed to stand for something more (though the jury is still out on whether they’ll achieve their goals).

Healthcare Marketing Implications

For traditional healthcare providers and healthcare marketing teams, the future should be clear. Industry lines are blurring and the race to capture the rewards of the wellness economy on a broad-scale is underway. Across demographic segments — whether millennials, boomers or seniors — the lack of engagement with traditional healthcare providers is feeding consumer receptivity to wellness and self-care alternatives.

Sidebar: for a more general perspective about how organizations can contend with new dimensions of competition, read this excellent article — The New Logic On Competition — from BCG’s Henderson Institute.

Here are four things healthcare marketing teams can do immediately to integrate broader health and wellness marketing strategies into their activities:

  1. Keep your eyes wide-open for ways to compete as an ecosystem that extends the boundaries and ability of your organization to deliver on the six dimensions of wellness (which likely brings tests, procedures and service lines back into the hospital)
  2. Explore ways to digitize your physical world to give patients the ability to expand their preventative health efforts (particularly for millennials who want solutions that emphasize simplicity, personalization and rapid response)
  3. Think more broadly about your service line marketing efforts (how to enhance them to deliver more value and how to communicate them) to encompass the six dimensions of wellness, e.g. how can you uniquely bring about positive change by advising, facilitating, problem solving, educating, etc.
  4. Continue to look outside the industry for inspiration about how to enhance patient experience and streamline operations (e.g. to hospitality, retail, air travel). Speaking of air travel, Tim Mapes, Delta’s SVP Marketing states “staying really close to customers and looking at how their needs are constantly evolving disallows any kind of respect for the status quo.”

Wellness, in all its dimensions, is a major trend with significant implications for the future of our healthcare in the US. Addressing wellness in a more holistic sense is also paramount to the health of our society. Which means it’s not an option, but a pressing need.



Since 1999, Trajectory has specialized in shaping and guiding the trajectory of healthcare + wellness brands. Reach out to speak with us about how we can provide you a health and wellness marketing strategy that creates more relevancy for your hospital marketing.






Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, launched in 1999, the specialist health & wellness branding and marketing agency using every moment to move customers, brands and businesses upward. Prior to Trajectory, Eric served as EVP and Management Board member at Interbrand (the world’s most influential brand consultancy). Before Interbrand, he held senior marketing positions at Beiersdorf Inc. and L’Oreal and advertising account management positions at Marschalk and Benton & Bowles.He has also taught as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall’s Graduate School of Communications and has lectured at Wharton Business School and Emory Goizueta School of Business.