Andrea Wroble
Andrea Wroble is a Health & Wellness Analyst at Mintel. Andrea focuses on writing reports and providing consumer-driven insights for health and wellness categories.

Mental health is quickly emerging as an integral component of consumer well-being. Once an aspect of health that brought shame and discomfort, adults are more open to acknowledging mental wellness and how common feelings of stress, anxiety, burnout or depression impact daily life. According to Mintel research on health management trends, stress is the leading health concern with nearly half of adults aged 18+ having experienced a mental health condition (stress, anxiety or depression) in the past year.

Improving the state of Americans’ mental well-being is crucial. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), in the past decade, death rates from suicides increased by 24% from 2007-2017. The staggering increase is viewed as a wakeup call as companies and organizations are putting a greater emphasis on mental health benefits and stress relief. Greater accessibility to treatment is needed at a global level, requiring brands to offer seamless and straightforward solutions.

The evolution of mental health services in healthcare

Healthcare services offer mental health programs to consumers across the US, but in today’s healthcare landscape, consumers are not sure where to start. According to Mintel research on health management, most adults who have experienced a mental health condition in 2019 are seeking treatment, such as asking medical professionals for advice, but also searching online and asking family and friends for solutions. Healthcare services should focus on accessibility and meeting consumers where they already are:

  • Walmart is piloting a new primary care model called Walmart Health. Walmart Health will provide access to comprehensive and low-cost primary care, including mental health services. One specific differentiator from a traditional primary care facility is transparent pricing; providing consumers cost of services with or without insurance. The clinic is in a separate building next door to a Walmart store, providing users more privacy. Walmart Health’s inclusion of mental health counseling is the first of its kind and if the model expands across the US, particularly to rural communities, access to mental health services could be commonplace.
  • In collaboration with the National Council for Behavioral Health and the American Pharmacists Association, Walgreens is beginning to train select Walgreens pharmacists and associates in mental health first aid. The training will educate pharmacists on mental health literacy, risk factors, warning signs of mental health conditions and addiction, as well as resources to recognize crisis and non-crisis situations. Outside of pharmacy staff, Walgreen’s plans to train human resource employees on mental health first aid – legitimizing and normalizing mental health as a component of consumer and employee health.

Addressing stress relief with over the counter remedies

Because stress is a leading health concern for consumers, over-the-counter remedy brands are incorporating calming or mood-boosting ingredients to support mental wellbeing. Millennials prioritize affordability and brands that support total wellness when purchasing health and wellness products, according to Mintel research on marketing health to Millennials. While this approach has been introduced by emerging and typically more expensive brands (eg Olly’s Goodbye Stress, Hum Nutrition’s Big Chill), mainstream supplement players are now focusing on stress relief in new product development:

  • Nature’s Bounty launched Anxiety and Stress Relief, which contains L-theanine to support the brain’s mood centers and promote a calm state of mind, as well as Ashwagandha, a clinically studied ingredient claiming to support a healthy response to occasional stress and anxiety. The product retails for half the price of Olly’s Goodbye Stress and offers double the quantity per bottle.
  • ZzzQuil offers De-stress and Sleep product, which utilizes melatonin and Ashwagandha to manage occasional stress and calm the mind. According to Mintel research on factors contributing to lack of sleep, more than two in five consumers say stress regularly inhibits sleep, emphasizing the need for tailored solutions to combat stress throughout the day and night.

Tech innovations tailored to mental health triggers

Wearable technology to monitor and manage health has become universal: more than nine in 10 fitness tracker owners say they have used the device to manage their health, according to Mintel research on health technology trends. While tracking personal health data through wearable devices is now mainstream, using data to guide consumer behavior to achieve health endeavors outside of fitness remains a gap. More than one-third of consumers who use or would be interested in using a smartwatch or mobile app would want to monitor their stress, highlighting opportunity for technology to play a role in mental health:

  • Focused on simplicity, UK startup Moodbeam launched a wearable bracelet designed for one purpose: to track a user’s mood. The concept came from the company’s desire to make it easy for people to record their feelings and ultimately build an understanding of their own mood. With the Moodbeam One wearable, users self-report how they feel by pressing one of two buttons – the yellow button corresponds with positive feelings and the blue with negative feelings. The device syncs with a connected app, allowing consumers to view their recorded mood over time. While the wearable device is limited in what it tracks, the simple and discreet technology may be appealing to a broader audience. Emerging devices that focus on mental health put pressure on mainstream wearable brands to offer mood-related functions, beyond tracking physical metrics.
  • Mood forecasting research is on the horizon and may be the future of wearable technology. According to an article published by NBC News in February 2019, research has shown that changes in the human mental state, notably sadness, stress or anxiety, results in physiological triggers – if monitored, these bodily changes could help predict at-risk emotional states and send alerts to the person in need or the person’s doctor, if deemed necessary. According to Mintel research on health technology trends, nearly three in five consumers would share their personal digital health data because the information could be used to benefit their wellbeing. Tracking the body’s physical response to mental health conditions is in the early stages, but could be revolutionary in early detection of undiagnosed conditions or episodes.

Implementing mental health resources in the workplace

The era of digital connectivity means that consumers can stay in touch wherever they are, allowing for the emerging culture of “work from anywhere”. Two-thirds of US Millennials say work-life balance is a priority, shining a light on the mental and emotional impact constant connectivity has on today’s workforce. Additionally, an increase in consumers working from home has been linked to feelings of loneliness and depression, indicating that a balance between busy office environments and working in isolation is required:

  • Asana, a work management platform, has launched a new feature called Workload that’s designed to distribute work tasks fairly. The new feature provides an overarching landscape of how much work a respective team can handle. Despite the constant connection to technology being a key reason for burnout, this update from Asana shows how tech can play a role in mitigating work-related stress. Most companies already utilize time-tracking systems, but integrating time tracking with capacity limits could quantify burnout through a non-bias data system.
  • The rise in popularity and number of co-working spaces will continue as consumers lead less traditional lives with many working from home, freelance or for themselves. Co-working space Convene is partnering with healthcare start-up Eden to place health clinics directly in its co-working spaces. With this new partnership, Convene members and tenants will have access to primary care contacts directly within their co-working space. Co-working spaces have become the next evolution of office culture and must offer practical benefits, such as health services that add value and convenience for employees. To continue proper engagement with home-based employees, workplaces should carry out regular mental health check-ins to ensure that employees are engaged and positive. Additionally, brands like Convene can highlight the importance of maintaining regular face-to-face interactions.

What we think

Regardless of the approach, brands need to be aware of and adaptive to the growing recognition of mental health and wellbeing. Mental health is often associated with terms like surviving, coping, or struggling, which evoke negative connotations. Key players must positively position mental healthcare and solutions to empower consumers and build acceptance. While many adults still feel ashamed or uncomfortable with openly discussing their personal mental health journey, companies and brands can provide proactive solutions to monitor stress, burnout and isolation, as well as foster supportive dialogue.