Is Health & Wellness a First World Luxury?

Fads in health and wellness aren’t a new concept. When it comes to staying fit, everyone is always looking for the next big thing to be healthier, fitter and younger — longer. These also tend to be a bit costly — and many times inaccessible to most, especially outside of the developed world.


From poring over all of the Rodan and Fields reviews and trying to find the perfect organic skin care product, to splurging on groceries from pricey places such as Whole Foods, you can easily find yourself blowing your entire budget on keeping up with the Joneses.

What Is the Actual Definition of ‘Wellness’?

In theory, working on your overall wellness is an extremely smart investment in a healthy future. But what does ‘wellness’ actually mean? In essence, it’s a holistic approach to your well-being, and it’s a transition in the way you live your life. It doesn’t really have anything to do with buying anything. Holistic wellness can be achieved through self-motivated activities and routine visits to your physician. It doesn’t happen through purchasing any “magic” ingredient.

The reason wellness has become such a booming industry is mainly because people want an instant solution. Buying the next big thing seems to give the impression that the journey to a healthy lifestyle will be that much faster and easier.


“Even today a great deal of Americans don’t even have access to a basic health regime, let alone a gym membership, first response emergency service or vegan food delivery service.”


The Problem With Making Wellness a Commodity

As is so often the case in a commodity-driven economy, it isn’t surprising that the health and wellness industry has also evolved into an exclusive club of sorts. It isn’t just about having the money to pay for something. It also means having access to the top experts and taking part in the trends. For example, guru Dr. Frank Lipman boasts a client list full of A-list celebrities, charges about $800 for an hour-and-a-half session and labels himself the voice of sustainable wellness.

Gurus like Lipman have made a business out of helping people live a healthier lifestyle, and while there is nothing wrong with the exchange of goods and services, exclusivity changes what people have access to. On top of that, there are often schemes or advertisements focused on you making an initial purchase, only to be coerced into purchasing additional features to get the full benefits of a wellness program.

Then, there is simply the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses.” To go with that fancy new gym membership, you’re obviously going to need a new pair of Lululemon leggings, access to trendy new classes that can run you about $25 to $40 a session and, of course, only the best type of food to eat. Meal services are popping up all over the place to make sure you don’t even have to think about eating healthy. It’s a sales pitch we all want to hear because it oozes luxury.

Consumers are addicted to exclusivity even if they can’t afford it, and because they want access to it, they often fall victim to gimmicky trends that may not have that much return on investment for their overall health and wellness. It has become a status symbol, and eating well has somehow transformed into the new way people can feel a sense of superiority over those that don’t have the ability to shop at Whole Foods.

It’s almost as if you’re wearing a badge of honor when you recite your grocery list in your brand new work out gear on your way to your boutique gym. Wellness has become equivalent to status. The health and wellness industry is nearly a $1 trillion industry and growing. Vitamin and supplement sales alone are expected to increase to $13.9 billion by the year 2018, and that’s only one small segment. There is money to be made, and companies are playing off the love of luxury the consumer market has in any way they can.


“The commoditization of a therapeutic and holistic idea has bastardized a self-love system that should apply to everyone, not simply the wealthy parts of a society in both developed and developing nations.”


Access to Wellness Technology Favors the Wealthy

Mobile apps for insurance, medical and emergency services have all been added conveniently to the mobile screens of our smartphones, and 2016 looks to be the most technologically advanced for the health industry. This software can even save lives — you can pay for response services like real-time first response software in case of an emergency.

The problem is, however, what happens if you don’t have a smartphone or can’t afford to purchase that kind of extra medical service, like much of the world?

In 2014, fifteen percent of the US population was still uninsured, meaning even today a great deal of Americans don’t even have access to a basic health regime, let alone a gym membership, first response emergency service or vegan food delivery service. These areas of wellness are actually beneficial to one’s health, but the origin of the word and what it has become has taken it away from its original definition and turned it into an industry based solely on what can be bought and sold.

What Health and Wellness Should Be

In a way, the commoditization of a therapeutic and holistic idea has bastardized a self-love system that should apply to everyone, not simply the wealthy parts of a society in both developed and developing nations. True wellness isn’t found in the type of gym you go to every day or the organic meals you have delivered to your door.

Wellness is and should be about a state of being you can achieve through relatively simple means. The growth of the wellness industry into a trend and fad-making machine has consumers looking for a quick fix Band-Aid they will never find or will never be able to actually afford — who can pay $800 for an hour-and-a-half therapy session? The list isn’t that long.

It’s time to change the way consumers look at wellness. It’s not a luxury to be bought and purchased. Rather, it should be a lifestyle anyone can achieve.

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Sarah is a marketing professional and freelance writer who shares advice primarily on leading a happy and healthy life. She is the founder of Punched Clocks, a career development site that helps professionals find happiness and success in their careers.