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  • The majority of consumers say their stress (82%) and tiredness (78%) levels are about the same or have increased over the last year.
  • Around two-thirds of Chinese urban consumers try to manage their emotional wellbeing by listening to music (68%), exercising (66%) and speaking to friends/family (64%).
  • 59% say they have developed sleep difficulty due to emotional issues.

Given how closely linked emotional and physical health are, the increasing demands of modern lifestyles are resulting in issues related to sleep quality, mental health and emotional wellbeing among China’s urban consumers. Latest research from Mintel reveals that the majority of Chinese urban consumers acknowledge that emotional issues are part of life, with 82% of those surveyed saying that their stress levels are about the same or have increased compared to 12 months ago. Meanwhile, young Chinese consumers claim to have more types of emotional issues than older consumers, such as feelings of loneliness (61%) and low mood (69%) among consumers aged 18-29, and feelings of anxiety (72%) and being short tempered (55%) among those aged 18-39.

Financial stress is the single biggest cause of emotional issues, rising amongst under-30s. Mintel research shows that 70% of Chinese consumers aged 18-24 and 73% of those aged 25-29  say they have financial stress. From the outset, the COVID-19 crisis has been a driver of consumer anxiety. While COVID-19 initially hit hard personal finances for consumers under age 30, their financial situation is improving, according to data from Mintel’s Global COVID-19 Consumer Tracker: the proportion of consumers aged 25-29 who felt a lot or a little better-off increased from 35% in early May to 57% in early August.

Catherine Liu, Research Analyst at Mintel, said: 

“The majority of Chinese consumers say that their emotional health is not in good form. Feeling stressed and tired are the most common emotional issues, as well as financial stress and workload. Although various types of offline venues have gradually resumed operation following lockdowns due to the COVID-19 crisis, including foodservice, fitness clubs, and tourist attractions, anxiety levels today are still fluctuating, along with concerns about regional outbreaks. In the next 12 months, concerns over exposure to the virus, as well as time needed to rebuild confidence in personal finance and employment security, will drive consumers to seek ‘simple pleasures’ as budget-friendly and safe ways to improve emotional wellbeing. Opportunities lie in providing more detailed solutions rather than a broad description of mood enhancement.”

Emotional wellbeing management drives innovation in comfort food

Many consumers view emotional wellbeing management as best tackled holistically, looking at a broad array of lifestyle changes. According to Mintel research, Chinese urban consumers try to manage their emotional wellbeing by listening to music (68%), exercising (66%) and speaking to friends/family (64%). 

Meanwhile, as discussed in Mintel Trend Bannedwagon, the comfort food market will be increasingly driven by health consciousness and better-for-you concepts in the foreseeable future. Fruit (17%) and chocolate (15%) both rank among the most popular choices of comfort food for Chinese consumers. This trend is especially prominent among female consumers aged 30-49. Nearly 22% of female consumers aged 40-49 have used fruit and 21% of those aged 30-39 have used chocolate to adjust emotions.

“Consumers are actively managing emotional wellbeing in different ways and starting to consciously choose healthier food, so offering issue-specific support could increase product value perception, as well as helping to reach to the less-proactive solution seekers,” added Catherine.

Emotional issues have multiple knock-on effects

The knock-on effects of emotional issues are vast and varied. For example, Chinese consumers had some symptoms after having emotional issues, such as headache and difficulty concentrating (67%), and low self-confidence (53%) among those aged 18-24; digestive discomfort (48%) among those aged 30-39; forgetfulness (43%) among those aged 40-59; and reduced sex drive among those aged 30-59 (28%). 

Difficulty sleeping is also a major concern: 59% of Chinese urbanites say it is difficult to get asleep. However, consumers see connections between improved sleep and overall health: 64% of consumers believe that digestive health is good for sleep, while 52% believe that sleep is critical to improving immunity.

“Brands could address stress and sleep issues in the short term as well as link emotional issues with specific health issues of defined audiences in the long term. Emotional wellbeing management products and services should consider providing issue-specific solutions for defined audiences to increase product relevance and strengthen product value perceptions,” Catherine concluded.