Diana Kelter
Diana is a Senior Trend Analyst at Mintel. She investigates how cultural, lifestyle and technology shifts take shape across sectors and leverages Mintel data across trend observations.

Burnout was once referred to as reaching a moment of pure exhaustion, where physically and mentally an individual had nothing left to give. It was viewed through the lens of being temporary, a state that could only exist for so long before a break became essential. However, with the recent announcement that the World Health Organization (WHO) added burnout to its International Classification of Diseases, its impact might not be as fleeting.

The WHO specifically outlines burnout in an occupational context, and defines it as, “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” While the WHO doesn’t focus on burnout outside of work, from a consumer trends perspective it’s important to look at the larger picture. In January 2019, BuzzFeed News coined Millennials as the “Burnout Generation” and the reasoning went beyond putting in long hours at work. Millennials were the first generation to enter college with Facebook, and have continued to add to their social networks while maintaining a hold on the past. Add social media influencers to the mix and it’s not surprising that this generation is feeling the impact of constant connection.

A stressful work day is now followed by the mental stress of feeling like you’re not doing as well as someone on social media. Additionally, combine those stresses with the overwhelming amount of options for what to eat, what to watch and what to buy, and the impact of this stress goes well beyond a focus on the Millennial demographic. According to Mintel research on health management trends, nearly half of US consumers aged 18-24 have experienced anxiety in the past year, compared to a quarter of all consumers, and 41% of US moms have experienced anxiety the past year, compared to 23% of dads. With Generation Z entering the workforce, more companies – and the culture at large – are aiming to figure out how to balance the constant state of burnout, and a focus on exercise might be one area of respite.

Nearly half of US consumers aged 18-24 have experienced anxiety in the past year, compared to a quarter of all consumers.

Working Out Becomes Less of a Chore

Mintel’s 2019 Global Consumer Trend, ‘Total Wellbeing’ highlights the holistic view consumers are taking toward their health, redefining the primary drivers associated with ‘hitting the gym.’ A higher percent of consumers who visit fitness clubs say they’re motivated to hit the gym to relieve stress in comparison to those who go to lose weight, according to Mintel research on fitness clubs. This trend extends to the UK, where a study from David Lloyd Fitness Studio revealed that a majority of young consumers preferred going to the gym over a nightclub. Fitness studios are setting a high bar for making workouts feel like a social experience and in many ways that entails expanding their brand beyond the workout itself.

Soul Cycle has tested live concert experiences during classes and has partnered with Apple Music to make their playlists accessible 24/7. From a lifestyle perspective, Equinox has recently branched into the hospitality sector with the announcement of an Equinox hotel in New York’s Hudson Yards which will redefine the type of self-care consumers look for when they travel.

Athleisure brands are also bringing a new perspective to the importance of being active. Outdoor Voices launched with the motto of “Doing Things” with activity ranging from walking your dog or running a marathon. The company also forms partnerships with various fitness studios, foodservice operators and other brands to offer free workout events on a regular basis that range from water aerobics to two mile jogs followed by a social hour.

What we think

Burnout isn’t going to be solved through one activity and making notable change will require various factors coming together. However, the current trend in fitness culture demonstrates the importance of looking at the drivers of certain activities more holistically. By thinking about the various ways fitness can incorporate into consumer lifestyles, and by making it a social event as opposed to a chore, fitness opens up more opportunities for consumers to receive increased benefits, with mental health, specifically, being top of mind. Could the next evolution of work culture be sponsored workouts rather than happy hours? It can’t be ruled out.