Amy Larocca, “Why are so many privileged people feeling so sick?”, The Cut, June, 2017
The Wellness Epidemic
When Gwyneth Paltrow first launched Goop in 2008, it was a great place to find out where to eat the best tapas in Barcelona. It was straight-up celebrity-lifestyle voyeurism, and Paltrow, with her long blonde hair and aura of complete self-satisfaction, was irresistible. There’s the expression “living your best life,” and then there is Paltrow: best life manifest.
Through the WI Lens
At the moment, wellness is a very amorphous idea that is everywhere, and as a result nowhere in particular. This is part of its financial and marketing appeal; but there is a bubble in the making, with many companies all too willing to sell snake oil to their gullible customers. A backlash is brewing, with an increasing number of researchers and practitioners warning about the excesses in some corners of the wellness industry and the shady science that underpins an increasing number of wellness products.
Nothing illustrates the wellness bubble better than Goop Health, the wellness summit organized by Goop – Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand. Her business, now financed by USD 10 million from venture capital, encompasses beauty products, skincare, vitamin supplements, accessories, clothing, a magazine (soon to be published by Condé Nast) and “experiences”. The “Wellness journey”, as Paltrow likes to call it, is all about investing in oneself to ensure that the body, the spirit and the mind operate at full potential. The word “journey” matters considerably: it signifies that wellness is not a state of being, but an aspiration or a personal transformation. Embarking on a journey means that prior to arriving at an elusive destination, the “wellness industrial complex” à la Goop will milk you at every single step. This article reinforces our view that in the coming years market discipline will separate the wheat from the chaff. There is nothing inevitable in wellness ascendency. At one stage, the bubble will burst, taking many companies and fads with it.
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.