The Power of ‘Social’ in the Age of Wellness

 The Power of 'Social' in the Age of Wellness In our most recent global study, The Truth About Wellness, we at McCann Truth Central uncovered a number of truths about the power of ‘social’ in what we are referring to as the ‘Age of Wellness’. As we explored the status of wellness today, our consumers told us a tale of two socials — one offline and one online — a distinction that provides a challenge for brands and companies who put digital consumers first.

Our study was both exploratory and defining in its approach to wellness, allowing consumers the opportunity to first provide an unprompted definition of the concept. In co-creation workshops and an online survey of 7000 respondents, the first association provided by the global majority was that of physical health, with 1 out of 3 respondents offering this definition. From Brazil to China, consumers reiterated this interpretation of wellness when they indicated that the responsibility of wellness also ultimately sits with the individual. But, in all instances, as we probed our respondents further, we found that there was widespread agreement that wellness could not be simply about the individual.

One in two of our respondents agreed with the statement “being healthy is about who you are with and where you are.” The awareness that the ‘social’ is a core component of total wellness is reflected clearly in the World Health Organization’s definition of wellness: “It concerns a person’s individual health physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and also their role in society and fulfilling expectations in their family, community, place of worship, workplace and environment.”

It should be unsurprising that the social dimensions of our human experience are fundamental to the WHO’s definition of wellness. The hearth, one of our species’ defining technologies, dates back at least 800,000 years; and, evidence of sharing vital resources with other members of our group extends back approximately two million years. So when it comes to finding support in leading a well life, the majority of our British respondents state that it is family, before doctor, followed closely by friends who offer the greatest promise.

Yet, when we consider the potential support offered by the online version of our social lives, the promise fades quickly, with only 5% of British respondents agreeing that they would turn to online social networks for advice. Even worse, there is concern across the globe that social networks, like Facebook, are making us fat, with young men worrying more than women that this is true. Moreover, globally, 25% of young men vs. 17% of young women worry that an obsession with technology and social networking is encouraging more sedentary living and therefore obesity.

The distinction between the quality of our offline sociability and our online sociability extends to the belief that the increase in time spent with technology is on par with the availability of unhealthy food which, incidentally, is understood as the greatest threat to the wellness of our children. In fact, Facebook ranked fourth just after companies like McDonald’s and Burger King in contributing most to the demise of people’s overall wellness. Of course, not all technological innovations are viewed equally. Nearly 1 in 3 of our respondents agreed that Google actually helps people stay well. In fact, 50% of our respondents read about their symptoms before a doctor visit and slightly more do so after such a visit.

When it comes to content about health and wellness, the internet and Google are critical partners in our efforts to pursue wellness. Overall, Google was ranked as the second must trusted resource for wellness, just after Pfizer and ahead of Nike. In the ‘Age of Wellness,’ when our social lives are split between online and offline versions, there are clear challenges and emerging opportunities for pioneering brands and companies.

Not only do consumers expect brands and companies to deliver high quality content that supports their efforts to achieve wellness, but they must also be aware of the differing values that consumers attribute to their online and offline social lives.

Rodney Collins, Regional Director EMEA for McCann Truth Central.