Long before the pandemic, mental and behavioral health were already becoming a global crisis.
Studies in the past few years have shown that 970 million people worldwide have a mental health condition or disorder, and that anxiety affects more than 284 million people. And these studies were from before the pandemic, which has taken a massive toll on mental health for all of us.
As mental health takes more of a focus, there are products and apps popping up left and right aiming to convince consumers that they can give them better peace of mind, and both happier and healthier lives. There’s also been a recent positive change in attitude towards wellness and mental health, which normalizes people getting the help they need to manage their situations.
Regardless of what industry you’re in, being conscious of this changing landscape can benefit your company. So, how is consumer behavior reflected in mental health trends? And how can you make sure you’re adapting your business accordingly?
Mental health and the complex stigmas that come with it
Historically, there’s been a pervasive stigma around mental healthcare and seeking help for mental illness. These stigmas have also disproportionately affected different demographics based on gender and race, making it even more challenging to seek help. Although each group is affected differently, the stigma around acknowledging mental health issues and seeking help exists for everyone. But there are positive signs that this is changing.
This study by the American Psychological Association surveyed different age groups on their attitudes towards mental health and the results show how attitudes have improved for the better.
The American Psychological Association surveyed American Adults on their attitudes towards mental health disorders
With 87% of adults agreeing that mental health disorders are nothing to be ashamed of and 86% saying they believe that people with mental health disorders can get better, this shows some recent strides towards acceptance around mental health issues.
The American Psychological Association survey included questions about stigma and fear around mental health disorders
Portions of the study, however, highlight the work still needed to be done to fix attitudes and stigma around mental health. With 39% saying they would view someone differently if they knew they had a mental disorder, and 33% saying people with mental health disorders scare them, this illustrates how challenging and complex it is to rid a society of stigmas and how much work there is still to be done.
And chances are, your customers may be appreciative if you’d join the conversation in a meaningful way that makes sense for your business.
Consumer behavior gravitates towards services and products that support mental health and wellbeing
So, how do these mental health trends translate into online searching and shopping behavior? And what do they mean for businesses hoping to do right by their customers by taking a stance on the hard topics?
How consumers are researching health and wellness products and services
To learn a little more about how mental health plays into the way consumers have researched their purchases lately, we looked into how often consumers included phrases like mental health, wellness, and well-being in their reviews on Trustpilot during different time periods.
Total number of reviews with related terms on Trustpilot from last year, compared with the year before that
When we look at the most recent 12 months compared to the previous 12 month period, there’s a staggering 335% increase of reviews mentioning these terms. Because the pandemic began around a year ago, this isn’t necessarily surprising. For most of the duration reflected in the column on the right, we were living with stresses in our life that none of us had ever experienced before.
Total number of reviews with related terms on Trustpilot from the most recent 6 months vs the previous 6 months
But when we zoom in on life during the pandemic and look at the most recent 6 months compared to the 6 month period before that, we’re still seeing an increase in the number of reviews containing these phrases.
And you might have assumed that the first 6 month period in the chart above — when the pandemic was beginning and many of us were adjusting to a completely new way of life — would have led to the most mentions of mental health in online reviews. But this isn’t the case.
This indicates that mental health and wellness — and the consumer demand for products that help with these things — are on a more permanent trend upwards as awareness towards mental health issues increases and seeking help becomes more common, regardless of current events.
Total number of reviews with related terms on Trustpilot from most recent 90 days vs the previous 90 days
Now, if we look into the most recent 3 months compared to the 3 month period before that, we’re still seeing a pretty large increase of 172%. This chart is the most telling of all, as this period was centered around when the vaccine began rolling out.
Even with the end of the pandemic finally in sight, consumers are still putting more of an emphasis on the effect products or services have on their mental health — likely to help other shoppers find businesses that won’t give them new gray hairs as part of the customer experience.
Mental health trends with apps and the quick shift to online support
Reviews are just one indicator of these trends in consumer preferences and needs. The shift to increased online interaction has created demand for both new apps and online services around health and wellness, and pushed previously in-person services like therapy and psychiatry online as well.
As with many other industries today, apps are one of the most effective ways for brands to interact with their customers and keep them engaged. Mental health and wellness are no exceptions. The global market size for apps geared towards mental health was valued at 40 billion USD in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17.7% from 2021 to 2028. This has only been accelerated by the pandemic. One study found that in the UK, downloads for mental health apps increased 200% from the summer of 2019 to the summer 2020.
There are apps full of self help guides and tips on living with depression, meditation apps, and apps that help you get better sleep. There are even apps filled with fun games that are actually scientifically designed to reduce stress, build resilience, and overcome negative thought habits. Regardless of anyone’s personal situation or needs, there is likely an app out there to help them find more peace and well-being.
Although online therapy was already starting to become popular, the pandemic created an extremely stressful situation for all of us — that also cut in-person interactions out of the picture. This led to an explosion in online services for therapy and psychiatry.
Reviews are a great way to help you find online therapy companies
Ginger, an on-demand therapy and mental healthcare app, saw their utilization rates rise to their highest ever last September, in the middle of the pandemic. Usage of their text-based mental health coaching was up 159% and virtual therapy and psychiatry were up 309% compared to their pre-covid averages.
And it’s not just that current customers are using these services more. Doctor On Demand reported that throughout last fall there were large increases in new patients seeking teletherapy – up over 50% throughout October and even higher than the initial spikes when the pandemic hit last spring.
All of this is to say — the strong consumer appetite for mental health and wellness support is likely here to stay. No matter what industry your business belongs to, it’s a good idea to keep this consumer trend top of mind.
How to stay relevant to the consumer trend of wellbeing and mental health
The rise in awareness around mental health and demand for more wellness focused lives will not only impact companies in the wellness or mental healthcare industries. Some of the biggest workplace predictions for employers coming out of the pandemic revolve around employee wellness and happiness.
Employees aren’t the only ones who notice an employer brand
For starters, companies will likely put more of a concrete focus on employee well-being into practice, instead of just talking about it as a way to build their employer brands. An increase in work-from-home policies, more PTO — or encouragement to actually use your PTO – along with free access to meditation and wellness apps, and better benefits packages in terms of mental health and therapy will become more prevalent in the workplace as employers try to alleviate stress for employees and compete for top talent.
Scott Shute, Head of Mindfulness and Compassion Programs at LinkedIn, believes that the emphasis for employee wellness should and will come from leadership teams as well, not just human resources. Regardless of talk around wellness programs and work-life balance, if compassionate leadership and advocacy for these programs isn’t coming from the very top of the organization in a very clear way, they likely won’t be successful in the long run.
For organizations looking to take better care of their employees, there are an increasingly large amount of companies popping up to help with this. From wellness retreats or multi week training programs, to gamified models that encourage some healthy competition between employees rewarding them for healthy behaviors, there are solutions to meet every organization’s wellness needs.
Fresh tips for getting your business involved with wellbeing and mental health
No matter your industry, there’s a number of meaningful ways your business can offer support to those struggling with mental health and wellness. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Shine the spotlight on any areas where you’ve improved the well-being of your customers
It can be tempting to think that this has nothing to do with you if your business isn’t in the mental healthcare or wellness industries, but that actually couldn’t be further from the truth. More often than you think, businesses can help their customers’ mental health in the most surprising ways. It’s likely that this furniture manufacturer had no idea their beds could impact someone’s mental health in such a positive and real way.
Products can sometimes help customers in surprising ways
Do you have reviews like this from customers talking about how your product has improved their wellbeing in an unexpected way? Consider putting together an email or social campaign featuring these reviews and tailor the message around your dedication to improving the lives of your customers.
This business helped alleviate their customer's anxiety
Showcase your commitment to the mental health of your employees
If you do have employee wellness programs in place, show that off and use it to your advantage. Talk about it on your social channels and make it a part of your brand as a whole, not just your employer brand. Many customers want to shop with companies they feel align with their personal values.
If you’re focusing on the wellness of your employees that can go a long way in terms of your brand reputation. These things matter to many customers as well, not just your employees.
Collaborate with local wellness companies
Collaborating on promotions and activations with local wellness companies can be a really great way to promote wellness for companies with a product offering or service that has nothing to do with mental health or well-being. Partnering with a local yoga or meditation studio to offer discounts on each other’s offerings with each purchase is a great way to gain new customers for you both and encourage wellness regardless of the industry you’re in.
It’s time to lean into mental health trends
One of the most important changes that may come out of this is that because of the pandemic consumers have become more comfortable sharing data around their health. The more they’re willing to adopt tools and share their data, the more these tools can be improved and better solutions can be designed for anyone struggling with their mental health.
There are numerous examples recently of how data, AI, and mental health can come together to shape real solutions for people who are struggling. Since the pandemic began, the Department of Veteran Affairs is increasingly relying on AI-based analytics to monitor the mental health of veterans. And because of how mental illness can affect each patient in such different ways, AI isn’t just helping identify mental illness in patients, it’s helping minimize the trial and error required in developing individual treatment plans for mental illness as well.
Between breaking down stigmas and improving treatment plans and solutions, perhaps the future might look a bit brighter for all of us.