The Rise of Lethal Stress

How many times have you heard either yourself or your peers talk about how stressed they are? How busy they are? How tired they are? It isn’t a surprise with us surgically attached to our devices and always accessible, we are living with relentless stress1. It’s become an alarming norm, sometimes even encouraged and glorified by our collective mentality. What many don’t realise is this dramatic increase in stress leads to serious health problems.

Now research shows that regular continued periods of stress combined with a sedentary lifestyle can cause early death. Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel’s work sheds light on the ‘telomere effect’, where increased stress and a sedentary lifestyle can shorten your telomere, or the protective end of your chromosomes. This can lead to heart disease, cancer, a weak immune system and even early death2.

As a population, we seem to innately know something is wrong. We are looking for ways to calm and simplify our lives. Our existing healthcare systems simply cannot catch up with the holistic healthcare we crave, so we are straying from health professionals in a quest to heal ourselves. In 2016 alone, the wellness sector was reportedly worth $3.7 trillion dollars, growing at over 10% per year3.

As a society, we certainly need more wellness. More than 2 billion people are overweight4. Over 80% of the world’s teens aren’t physically active enough5. Working 11 hours a day increases the chance of a heart attack by over 60%6. When people say a job is killing them, they aren’t kidding. But it isn’t just our physical wellbeing we need to worry about. In a recent survey, the more social media young people are exposed to, the more likely they are to report depression, low self-esteem and anxiety7. One of the top Google searches of 2016 was ‘How do I accept who I am?’ New research from the Millennium Cohort Study in September 2017, shows a quarter of teenage girls and 1 in 10 teenage boys are depressed8.

The Wellness Movement – a coping strategy for life?

So exactly how are consumers responding to the stress they are experiencing? What exactly is the Wellness Movement? The specialist Health & Wellness Practice at Ogilvy embarked on an investigation to find out. The answers are collected in The Wellness Pioneers global report, newly published this month.

The findings are food for thought for all of us: consumers and marketers alike. While modern healthcare is breaking into more specialisms with more personalized treatments to target disease, consumers are seeking an ever more simple and holistic experience – an integrated mind, body & spirit solution. It appears that as healthcare systems are slow to change and keep up with consumers, a fast-growing Wellness industry is booming, to compensate, with new pioneers understanding our needs and stepping into this space. The Wellness Pioneers global report identifies five major themes: radical compassion, mind and body becoming one, social fitness, somatic spaces and the convergence of health and technology.

Simplifying our lives in a quest to de-stress has become key. And we are experimenting with what is best to achieve this – from the conventional, to the quirky to outright strange. And in the process also rediscovering some age-old learnings. Boredom is back – it has been linked to increased creativity and even aids learning ability. “Boredom is the new black” for our wellbeing9.

An Opportunity for Brands and Marketers

The Wellness Pioneers report clearly shows that any product or service in the Wellness sector needs to recognize the need to respect mind, body and spirit to truly engage with us all as consumers.

We are still hardwired to survive as we were 100,000 years ago. Many of the states we desire in the Wellness Report can find their roots in early Asian culture. We appear to use our autonomic brain, rather than our reflective brain to find wellbeing. Speaking to Chris Graves, President and Founder of the Ogilvy Centre for Behavioral Science, he explained “Marketing and communications in this area can be far more effective if we understand people from the inside out instead of the outside in. That means understanding human personality traits, cultural cognition and deep-seated mindsets instead of sorting people by demographic only.”

Looking to the Future

And for future predictions, Brian McCarter, one of the authors of the Wellness Pioneers report, says “From the research findings, we predict that we will become more self-compassionate; more body-mindful; more communal; more spatially attuned; and more open to augmenting ourselves with technology.”

So, the opportunity to really deliver for consumers and their health is there and the Ogilvy Health & Wellness Practice has been established to do just this – to help brands and services better navigate these emerging marketing challenges and really make brands matter in this sector.

How will this Wellness Movement evolve? What does it mean for our children? What is the best way to raise them? How can we pursue work which nourishes rather than diminishes us? I look forward to seeing how our changing mindsets and perceptions will push both brands and marketers to be more inventive than ever before. 


1. Our 24/7 culture: American Psychological Association, Stress and Effects on the Body, 2017

2. Early mortality: The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel, Orion Spring, 2017.

3. Wellness industry:

4. Obesity 2.2 bn overweight: The Independent, Mismatch Between the Way our Senses Evolved and Modern World is Making us Ill, September 2017

5. 80% inactive: World Health Organisation, Physical Activity Fact Sheet, 2017

6. Working 11hrs/heart attack: The Atlantic, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?, September 2017

7. Social media and psychological ill-health:


9. Boredom: