How consumers are looking at their physical and mental health


How consumers are looking at their physical and mental health

All around the world, consumers are re-inventing how they approach health threats and wellness-related decisions. Our Global Health and Wellness report explores consumer sentiment across 17 diverse global markets to help understand the global state of health, wellness, and well-being. It showcases a universal hierarchy of needs that empowers a deeper understanding of how consumers are currently prioritizing their health and wellness needs.

This hierarchy, applied to the current state of health and wellness, brings to light a total view of consumer health needs. It highlights unique differences in the innate order to which consumers are prioritizing their health needs: those that are protective, preservation-focused, aspirational, evolving, and altruistic in nature.

Preservation-focused needs center around catering to current self-care and intrinsic physical and mental health and well-being. From mental health checks to physical self-care, sleep health to fitness, preservation health needs are those that aim to improve consumers’ present quality of life. This article provides an overview of health preservation priorities, followed by deeper looks into key components, solutions and consumer expectations contributing to today’s spectrum of self-care.

Am I ‘okay’ emotionally & physically?

1 in 3 (35%) surveyed consumers across the globe state that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health.

58% of global consumers have been personally affected by transmission of the virus, having contracted it themselves or experienced physically caring for loved ones who have had COVID-19.

Health preservation priorities vary across countries

It is important to recognize that preservation-focused physical and mental health and well-being priorities look very different across markets. Within the below chart, there are interesting nuances to note. Notice the fluctuated ranking of sleep, where it is ranked a critically important priority for consumers in China and a lagging priority for consumers in Italy. Mindfulness is highly prioritized in South Africa, yet not so much in Australia, where it is ranked “not important at all.” This highlights the need to understand the differences that have and will continue to emerge in the are of a consumers’ physical and mental health and well-being. Awareness of these local intricacies will enable companies to gain granular focus and map strategies to build a better connection to the preservative wellness journeys of consumers.

Feeding the need for self-care with food as medicine

More and more, preservation-focused needs are being met with self-care regimes that involve leveraging food as medicine. With the growing need to control stress and anxiety, a number of brands are tapping into holistic, functional foods to help consumers manage their mental health. For example, the U.K.-based brand, “Sleep well Milk” touts the botanical power of valerian to help individuals relax. The brand’s global popularity is set to grow with its expanded launch into Asia later this year. In another instance, Twinning’s has launched its “Live Well” range of tea in Australia and New Zealand. The product line is said to assist in key functions such as: Defense, Sleep, Digestion, Refresh and Focus.  

There are certainly many drivers of growth within care-oriented foods. In fact, within the US, sales of products supporting a “food as medicine” function have increase 13% since 2019.

Drivers of growth within care-oriented foods

Dissecting the “food as medicine” umbrella – U.S. Sales Growth vs. 2 years ago


in U.S., sales growth since 2019 among products supporting a ‘food as medicine’ function, keeping pace with overall sales growth of U.S. CPG vs. 2 years ago.

Mental health

+10% – Anxiety support
+9% – Depression support
+4% – Mood and stress health
+3% – Sleep support


+12% – Kidney health
+10% – Eye health
+7% – Bone health
+2% – Brain health


+13% – Diabetes support
+11% – Hypertension support
+10% – Immune system health
+8% – Arthritis support


+15% – Heartburn & acid reflux support
+11% – Pain support
+11% – Digestive health
+11% – Cough support

Source: NielsenIQ Label Insight, Total US xAOC, 52 weeks ended Sept. 11, 2021 vs. 2 years ago

A rising tide of attention on mental health

Global living conditions of the last two years have intensified mental health struggles for people around the world. According to NielsenIQ’s Future Pulse Survey (Q2 2021), 35% of global consumers state that COVID has had a negative impact on their mental health and 23% believe COVID has negatively impacted their physical health.

Mental health is having more than just a moment. It should now be seen as a major consideration factor within the consumer health and wellness equation. Today’s mental health movement is driving de-stigmatization efforts and spreading awareness around the importance of advocating for self-care. And while mental health is an issue that impacts consumers across all age groups, genders and race, it is important to keep an eye on consumer segments who have experienced a particular level of social or economic pressure over the past 2 years.

Keep a close watch on elder millennial mental health needs – a generation subset who now are facing early/mid-life career pressures amidst a pandemic, caring for kids and also for their aging generation of parents. Be keen to the needs of children, who are experiencing continuous disruption to their core developmental years. Another cohort to pay attention to are women across the world, who continue to deal with the combined pressures and stress of career and familial responsibilities.

NielsenIQ data shows that

Globally, 29% of women are struggling with work life balance

54% of women feel that emotional mental health is more important than 2 years ago, compared to 46% of men

47% of women believe mental health will continue to be important in the next few years compared to 38% of men

Source: NielsenIQ Global Health & Wellness Study of 17 markets, September 2021 and NielsenIQ Future Pulse Survey, Q2 2021

Obesity: the epidemic within a pandemic

Homebody lifestyles borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t helped curb the global fight against obesity. While there are granular, longer-term, aspirational needs aligned to obesity (such as sugar and fat content in products) much of the world continues to struggle intrinsically with healthy weight management.

In countries around the world, governments are using regulatory measures to encourage businesses to reformulate product portfolios and give consumers greater access to information to make healthy choices. In 2016, Chile led the charge in requiring black warning labels shaped like stop signs on packaging to highlight food and drinks exceeding limits for sugar, salt, saturated fat or calories. The nation also implemented bans on child-directed marketing strategies, restricting the advertising of junk food during prime-time hours. Since then, other global markets have since followed suit with like-minded regulations and labeling laws. All have been put into motion with the goal of helping consumers make healthier choices and curbing the obesity epidemic. 

Governments and regulatory bodies have taken notice of how crucial consumer transparency is to the health of their populations. Manufacturers and retailers need to be proactive, rather than reactive, to change.


of global consumers have shifted health priorities because they have gained unwanted weight

North America

Proposed framework for “supplemented foods” in Canada would bring new, stricter labelling system.

Timing: Compliance by 2024 if passed

Updated FDA guidelines in the U.S. would set voluntary sodium limits for 160+ categories of processed foods with the goal of helping consumers cut their salt intake by 12%.

Timing: Rollout complete by 2024

Asia Pacific

Proposed regulations in India would define vegan food and introduce regulations and labeling rules.

Timing: 2021

Singapore’s ministry of health to deploy nutrition labels and advertising prohibitions for sugar-sweetened beverages.

Timing: 2022


Food labels will continue to provide more clarity on the footprint of their contents. France and Germany are introducing new labeling initiatives, with Lidl and Colruyt trialing initiatives.

Timing: Current, with widespread EU “ecolabel” strategy timed for 2024.

Latin America

Increasing number of countries adopting front of pack warning nutritional labelling to those already seen in Chile in 2016.

Timing: Peru (2019) Mexico (2020) Brazil (2022)

Chile and Mexico also restricts child directed advertising and marketing (2016, 2020)

Sources: The National Law Review | Politico | The Economic Times | | | | | Wiley online library

Preservation health needs are being challenged by food insecurity around the world

According to the UN World Food Program (WFP), every day, more than 700 million people (8.8% of the world’s population) go to bed on an empty stomach. Policies and company actions need to prioritize and empower areas where it is difficult to buy or afford healthy, fresh foods. According to a recent NielsenIQ global survey, not only do a majority (72%) of surveyed global consumers feel that companies have a big role to play in the availability and access of healthy food for all, but many (63%) would be more likely to buy from companies with a strong health mandate across their whole portfolio. In both instances, consumer sentiment on food insecurity and company mandates is strongest among those who have been the most financially constrained or cautious throughout the last two years.

Take a deeper look into the global consumer health and wellness revolution

Understanding how consumers’ preservation-focused health needs are being met is only part of the story. The opportunity for companies looking to meet and exceed the growing expectations of wellness-minded consumers is to figure out where your brand fits and sits along the entire hierarchy of health and wellness needs. Our Global Health and Wellness report takes a deep dive into how consumer needs have been reshaped around the world, what is trending, and what the budding opportunities are across the new, broadened spectrum of global well-being.

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