From cold plunges to collagen to celery juice, the $1.8 trillion global consumer wellness market is no stranger to fads, which can sometimes surface with limited clinical research or credibility. Today, consumers are no longer simply trying out these wellness trends and hoping for the best, but rather asking, “What does the science say?”
McKinsey’s latest Future of Wellness research—which surveyed more than 5,000 consumers across China, the United Kingdom, and the United States—examines the trends shaping the consumer wellness landscape. In this article, we pair these findings with a look at seven wellness subsets—including women’s health, weight management, and in-person fitness—that our research suggests are especially ripe areas for innovation and investment activity.
The science- and data-backed future of wellness
In the United States alone, we estimate that the wellness market has reached $480 billion, growing at 5 to 10 percent per year. Eighty-two percent of US consumers now consider wellness a top or important priority in their everyday lives, which is similar to what consumers in the United Kingdom and China report (73 percent and 87 percent, respectively).
This is especially true among Gen Z and millennial consumers, who are now purchasing more wellness products and services than older generations, across the same dimensions we outlined in our previous research: health, sleep, nutrition, fitness, appearance, and mindfulness (Exhibit 1).1
Across the globe, responses to our survey questions revealed a common theme about consumer expectations: consumers want effective, data-driven, science-backed health and wellness solutions (Exhibit 2).
Five trends shaping the consumer health and wellness space in 2024
Fifty-eight percent of US respondents to our survey said they are prioritizing wellness more now than they did a year ago. The following five trends encompass their newly emerging priorities, as well as those that are consistent with our earlier research.
Seven areas of growth in the wellness space
Building upon last year’s research, several pockets of growth in the wellness space are emerging. Increasing consumer interest, technological breakthroughs, product innovation, and an increase in chronic illnesses have catalyzed growth in these areas.
Historically, women’s health has been underserved and underfunded. Today, purchases of women’s health products are on the rise across a range of care needs (Exhibit 5). While the highest percentage of respondents said they purchased menstrual-care and sexual-health products, consumers said they spent the most on menopause and pregnancy-related products in the past year.
Digital tools are also becoming more prevalent in the women’s health landscape. For example, wearable devices can track a user’s physiological signals to identify peak fertility windows.
Despite recent growth in the women’s health space, there is still unmet demand for products and services. Menopause has been a particularly overlooked segment of the market: only 5 percent of FemTech start-ups address menopause needs.2 Consumers also continue to engage with offerings across the women’s health space, including menstrual and intimate care, fertility support, pregnancy and motherhood products, and women-focused healthcare centers, presenting opportunities for companies to expand products and services in these areas.
Demand for products and services that support healthy aging and longevity is on the rise, propelled by a shift toward preventive medicine, the growth of health technology (such as telemedicine and digital-health monitoring), and advances in research on antiaging products.
Roughly 70 percent of consumers in the United Kingdom and the United States and 85 percent in China indicated that they have purchased more in this category in the past year than in prior years.
More than 60 percent of consumers surveyed considered it “very” or “extremely” important to purchase products or services that help with healthy aging and longevity. Roughly 70 percent of consumers in the United Kingdom and the United States and 85 percent in China indicated that they have purchased more in this category in the past year than in prior years. These results were similar across age groups, suggesting that the push toward healthy aging is spurred both by younger generations seeking preventive solutions and older generations seeking to improve their longevity. As populations across developed economies continue to age (one in six people in the world will be aged 60 or older by 20303), we expect there to be an even greater focus globally on healthy aging.
To succeed in this market, companies can take a holistic approach to healthy-aging solutions, which includes considerations about mental health and social factors. Bringing products and services to market that anticipate the needs of aging consumers—instead of emphasizing the aging process to sell these products—will be particularly important. For example, a service that addresses aging in older adults might focus on one aspect of longevity, such as fitness or nutrition, rather than the process of aging itself.
Weight management is top of mind for consumers in the United States, where nearly one in three adults struggles with obesity4; 60 percent of US consumers in our survey said they are currently trying to lose weight.
While exercise is by far the most reported weight management intervention in our survey, more than 50 percent of US consumers considered prescription medication, including glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) drugs, to be a “very effective” intervention. Prescription medication is perceived differently elsewhere: less than 30 percent of UK and China consumers considered weight loss drugs to be very effective.
Given the recency of the GLP-1 weight loss trend, it is too early to understand how it will affect the broader consumer health and wellness market. Companies should continue to monitor the space as further data emerges on adoption rates and impact across categories.
Fitness has shifted from a casual interest to a priority for many consumers: around 50 percent of US gym-goers said that fitness is a core part of their identity (Exhibit 6). This trend is even stronger among younger consumers—56 percent of US Gen Z consumers surveyed considered fitness a “very high priority” (compared with 40 percent of overall US consumers).
In-person fitness classes and personal training are the top two areas where consumers expect to spend more on fitness. Consumers expect to maintain their spending on fitness club memberships and fitness apps.
The challenge for fitness businesses will be to retain consumers among an ever-increasing suite of choices. Offering best-in-class facilities, convenient locations and hours, and loyalty and referral programs are table stakes. Building strong communities and offering experiences such as retreats, as well as services such as nutritional coaching and personalized workout plans (potentially enabled by gen AI), can help top players evolve their value proposition and manage customer acquisition costs.
More than 80 percent of consumers in China, the United Kingdom, and the United States consider gut health to be important, and over 50 percent anticipate making it a higher priority in the next two to three years.
One-third of US consumers, one-third of UK consumers, and half of Chinese consumers said they wish there were more products in the market to support their gut health.
While probiotic supplements are the most frequently used gut health products in China and the United States, UK consumers opt for probiotic-rich foods such as kimchi, kombucha, or yogurt, as well as over-the-counter medications. About one-third of US consumers, one-third of UK consumers, and half of Chinese consumers said they wish there were more products in the market to support their gut health. At-home microbiome testing and personalized nutrition are two areas where companies can build on the growing interest in this segment.
The expanded cultural conversation about sexuality, improvements in sexual education, and growing support for female sexual-health challenges (such as low libido, vaginal dryness, and pain during intercourse) have all contributed to the growth in demand for sexual-health products.
Eighty-seven percent of US consumers reported having spent the same or more on sexual-health products in the past year than in the year prior, and they said they purchased personal lubricants, contraceptives, and adult toys most frequently.
While more businesses began to sell sexual-health products online during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a range of retailers—from traditional pharmacies to beauty retailers to department stores—are now adding more sexual-health brands and items to their store shelves.5 This creates marketing and distribution opportunities for disruptor brands to reach new audiences and increase scale.
Despite consistently ranking as the second-highest health and wellness priority for consumers, sleep is also the area where consumers said they have the most unmet needs. In our previous report, 37 percent of US consumers expressed a desire for additional sleep and mindfulness products and services, such as those that address cognitive functioning, stress, and anxiety management. In the year since, little has changed. One of the major challenges in improving sleep is the sheer number of factors that can affect a good night’s sleep, including diet, exercise, caffeination, screen time, stress, and other lifestyle factors. As a result, few, if any, tech players and emerging brands in the sleep space have been able to create a compelling ecosystem to improve consumer sleep holistically. Leveraging consumer data to address specific pain points more effectively—including inducing sleep, minimizing sleep interruptions, easing wakefulness, and improving sleep quality—presents an opportunity for companies.
As consumers take more control over their health outcomes, they are looking for data-backed, accessible products and services that empower them to do so. Companies that can help consumers make sense of this data and deliver solutions that are personalized, relevant, and rooted in science will be best positioned to succeed.