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Global Wellness Institute Release a Bright Side Report in the Dark Era of Donald Trump

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A comprehensive report commissioned by GWI expands the horizons of the wellness concept and movement.

"The UN’s ‘2016 World Happiness Report’ finds that the U.S. ranks a depressing 85th among nations when it comes to equality in wellbeing among its citizens. And now more than ever the country needs more mental wellness solutions and more wellness offerings for the ‘other 99% ... and because the U.S. wellness market is so vast, consumer-driven and innovative, the industry will respond to these new needs and opportunities."

Susie Ellis, Chairman and CEO, Global Wellness Institute


Alvin Toffler, famous for the 1970 mega hit Future Shock (six million copies sold), wrote:

"One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell R-E-A-L from unreal. Soon we'll need a new definition."

OK, I admit Toffler did not capitalize R-E-A-L, the four letters that I’ve come to believe represent the best qualities of the wellness concept, but the quote is real, nevertheless. He did write that. It seems a fitting way to raise the subject of defining wellness and, more important, assessing what it should entail. 

There is no single, universally accepted definition of wellness, not even amongst those few who promote it professionally or live in a manner considered wellness-friendly. Fine. There is no single Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin-like potentate who could even attempt such a thing. Instead, we have many definitions. First, there is my definition, which is the best, absolutely HUGE and should be accepted by everyone. While I am opposed to displays of the Decalogue on courthouse steps or other government spaces, I can’t see any harm in having tasteful plaques of my REAL wellness definition in such public squares, as well as churches, for that matter. Who would object?

REAL wellness addresses reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty. Within these dimensions are the five elements of well-being that Gallup measures annually: life purpose, social engagement, financial security, sense of community and physical health. REAL wellness also encompasses many other elements that factor into quality of life. (According to the latest Gallup poll assessment, if you live in America, best to live in Hawaii, #1, not West Virginia, #50—but most who live in the latter don’t have much choice so they must struggle upstream toward wellness, without much of a highly supportive environmental tide. More on REAL wellness.

However, as noted, mine is not the first or only definition of wellness. Halbert L. Dunn created the first definition, which influenced all the rest. (Dr. Dunn described wellness as a change process wherein one moves forward toward a higher potential of functioning. Dr. John Travis followed with a view of the concept wherein individuals progressed on a wellness energy system along a continuum from illness toward 12 dimensions of well being.)

Probably the most widely adopted is the Hettler/NWI model wherein wellness is seen as a conscious, self-directing and evolving evolution along six dimensions ... blah blah blah. Multiple definitions have followed, authored by nearly everyone who ever attended a National Wellness Conference, wrote or read a book on wellness or sought to promote a product, business, center or treatment of one kind or another. Like myself, most wellness definition writers take a page from the Catholic Church, insisting that theirs is the one, true expression of wellness. Well, they can’t all be true because they’re different and besides, it’s too early in the game to fix upon any one as being best. And besides, it’s not polite. We should always be polite.

If I were to channel my inner Trump, I’d say they all suck, except mine. Believe me—losers. Total disaster. Sad. Crooked. The work of failed definition writers. Pitiful. Not nice. Boring. So unfair.

But, why would I do that? Even if I had an inner Trump driving me to go low, I’d at least consider the other direction. But, I like to think I’m inner demon-less, so let me proceed. Where was I? 

Oh yes, definitions. The GWI report and a look on the bright side of life. Let’s start with the big picture and proceed from there.

The Global Wellness Economy

In January of this year, the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) issued its “2016 Global Wellness Economy Monitor.” This report is based upon research in ten markets that GWI includes in its definition of a global wellness industry. By including ten varied sectors considered wellness-oriented, the Institute asserts that wellness worldwide is an industry worth $3.72 trillion.

Wow. Who knew? The report, as with nearly everything the GWI produces, is made freely available to all, without conditions, and deserves the attention and appreciation of wellness promoters, enthusiasts and others interested in wellness generally and these varied markets in particular. 

Included in the report are data on twenty national markets for wellness travel, spas and workplace wellness. Projections are made for growth rates. A few items highlighted in a GWI press release include the following:

  • China made the biggest gains (more than 300 percent) in wellness tourism revenues.
  • America is # 1—The “Wellness Nation!” (You can guess who in Washington, D.C. will welcome that!)
  • The five key markets for which data are analyzed in the U.S. are wellness tourism, the spa industry, workplace wellness, wellness real estate and thermal/mineral springs.
  • The category “wellness travel dollars spent” reveals that the U.S. generates three times more wellness tourism spending than the second largest market, Germany.
  • The spa sector is the largest of all global markets, and here, too, the U.S. attracts twice the revenue than the next country, China.
  • From 2013 to 2016, 1,569 additional spas opened in America.

Workplace and Lifestyle Real Estate Markets

The revenue flow in the workplace market in the U.S. is estimated to be $43.3 billion. Employers spend $14.4 billion annually, considerably more than Japan ($3.4 billion) and Germany (3.1 billion), the next largest markets. This is not a surprise finding, given that health (medical) care in this country is usually provided by employers. Thus, there remains a corporate incentive to reduce such costs and boost productivity. 

This lifestyle real estate market consists of global commercial property transactions in residential, hospitality and mixed-used categories that incorporate wellness elements. Examples include social and environmental health in the design, construction, services, amenities and/or programming elements. For 2015, the estimate of this market is $118.6 billion. 

Wellness Trends in the World of Trump

How might our new president’s policies and personality affect these markets of the wellness movement? GWI identifies five scenarios owing to or at least affected by the new age of Trump, including a surge in the number of buildings, bridges, towns, rivers and streets renamed TRUMP. This will be seen as crucial for wellness entrepreneurs seeking Federal funding. 

Just kidding. 

Here are the main U.S. wellness trends potentially affected by the Trump presidency identified in this GWI report:

  • Lots of “mental wellness programming” at hotels, wellness resorts, spas, fitness studios, workplaces and schools. (I think we needed such a surge before Trump, but his election certainly demonstrates the need.)
  • Trickle down wellness. The inequality backlash that boosted Trump into the White House will spark a commitment within the industry to be less conspicuous about programs and services that enable patrons to avoid exciting the envy of their neighbors. Good riddance $300 yoga pants and Reiki sessions, hello healthy groceries, budget spa brands, pricing based on income and other lower price point initiatives.  
  • A shift in focus of wellness culture to be more on “mind” than “body.” Program priority examples range from meditation, sleep health and new apps that track mental wellness and stress.
  • Hold it down! (That is, lower the volume, please.) Silence as a bit of relief from the world of 24/7 connectedness and shrieking news/noise. Look for offerings of silent spas, “wellness monasteries in sacred spaces and deep nature” (hello Deepak Chopra) and hotels/resorts with quiet room/zone floor labels and digital kill switches. Restaurants, gyms, hair salons, stores and airports not exempted from this trend.
  • Wellness at home. More Americans shaping their homes as wellness nests or sanctuaries. This takes such forms as “installing circadian lighting to biophilic (architecture of life) design.” Also, many choosing to live in wellness-focused communities.
  • Growth in wellness markets. In part, this trend reflects expected economic downtowns, the repeal of the ACA, loss of women’s health programs and medical cost inflation averaging nearly six percent annually through 2025. Wellness markets will benefit as more citizens seek relief from these perturbations into exercise/yoga/meditation and other wellness, life-enriching diversions. Wellness will be a partial bright side to the insecurities rampant in an over-connected, chaotic world.


I highly recommend The Global Wellness Economy Monitor, written by Ophelia Yeung and Katherine Johnson. Rich statistical data and other details on the ten markets identified as elements of the global wellness economy, as well as U.S. wellness trends, are provided. 

The authors view wellness as “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” By defining the wellness economy to encompass industries that enable consumers to incorporate wellness activities and lifestyles into their daily lives, the bright side estimate of wellness as a $3.72 billion market is made possible. 

For all who write definitions and particularly those who promote wellness of one kind or another in the U.S. and around the world, this work might be as beneficial today as the two seminal documents that sparked the wellness movement a half century ago. These two reports, namely, the 1974 A New Perspective on the Health of Canadians and the 1979 Surgeon’s General’s report on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention entitled, Healthy People were to the early promoters of the wellness concept what the GWI report might become for the general spa industry and its many components. 

Let’s hope so, while remaining a focus on the bright side of quality life.

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