Historically, the health paradigm in this country has been highly restrictive in both the aspects of health it addresses (mostly physical illness) and who it aims to help (aka thin, white, affluent, and English-speaking folks). But that’s starting to change with the rise of virtual care options in the Covid era, the growing societal acceptance of therapy and mental-health treatment, and the launch of services specifically for overlooked groups, including Black and large-bodied people. In our 2023 Wellness Trends report, we predict that the health-care industry will stretch its limbs even further in the year to come, with innovative programs and products that allow more people to live a healthier life, holistically.
That’s the subject of the latest episode of The Well+Good Podcastin which our editors (including yours truly) reveal the biggest trends on the horizon for the future of health, from the drugstore to the doctor’s office to the nebulous world of virtual reality.
Listen to the full episode here:
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the pandemic sent shockwaves through our entire health ecosystem. As the dust has settled, one clear side effect has emerged: Our stress and anxiety levels are through the roof. In turn, 2023 will bring the rise of mental fitness, “which is this idea that you can work on your mental health proactively just like you do your physical body,” says Well+Good deputy editor Samantha Leal in the episode. New digital platforms designed around that goal offer opportunities to strengthen your mental health before you’re in crisis mode, whether through self-guided therapy-based classes, support circles for niche communities, or live-streamed meditation and journaling sessions.
Expanding access to mental-health support is central to the above launches, given the fact that therapy sessions (even virtual and group-based ones) typically have a high barrier to entry, whether financial, time-based, or emotional. In a similar way, the influx of virtual reality in health care will open up a world of new options in 2023 for people failed by the current health system or solutions—such as those suffering from treatment-resistant mental illness or chronic pain. New programs are tapping the immersive settings possible with VR headsets to provide next-level mindfulness sessions, exposure therapy, and even biofeedback training that can help trick the brain into perceiving less pain or distress.
Elsewhere in the health industry, new and upcoming drugstore launches will make it easier for more people to manage common conditions in ways that align with their bodies and values in 2023. In particular, a suite of brand and product launches in the tampon space aim to make menstruating a less terrible experience by improving the design, function, and eco-friendliness of the product (which, in case you were wondering, hasn’t seen much if any innovation since its invention nearly a century ago by a male physician).
And over on the OTC drug aisle, a host of new products for cough, cold, pain, and indigestion are taking a page from the wellness playbook with stripped-down formulations. The latest launches feature tried-and-true actives (like ibuprofen from Advil or calcium carbonate from TUMS), but either remove or swap out all the artificial binders, flavors, and dyes, as well as common allergens like gluten that typically coexist with the actives. The result? More available OTC medications on the market, specifically for people who either can’t or don’t feel comfortable consuming the additives used in their legacy counterparts.
Indeed, “more” is the common thread linking all of our 2023 forecasts in the health space: We’re seeing the health-care industry expand to offer more options for more communities of people to solve for more health concerns not fully addressed by the existing paradigm. “I feel like if we’ve learned anything over the past couple years, it’s that there are so many gaps in our health-care system, and so many people are left feeling sick or lost or confused,” says Well+Good VP of content Abbey Stone, in the episode. “And now, there’s so much to look forward to in terms of filling those gaps.”
To learn more about our reporting on the trends driving the future of health in 2023 and beyond, listen to the full podcast episode here.