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Chasing a Feeling: The Modern Wellness Journey and the Role of Digital Media

While self-care has always been a focus, it has become even more top of mind since the onset of the pandemic. As wellness has captured greater attention, the perception of the category has evolved. Wellness now extends beyond just physical well-being to include emotional and mental health as well, and it has pivoted to be more closely aligned with proactivity instead of tackling challenges as they arise. 88% agree that wellness is about making a series of consistent, forward-looking choices that leave you feeling your best.

As the narrative expands, consumers are increasingly turning to digital publishers for support. Compared to 2020, Google searches about wellness have increased by nearly +25% as people seek answers to their questions and guidance for the future. Consumers feel strongly that wellness content must touch on a wider range of topics than before, even those that might be uncomfortable, as well as become more inclusive, serving a diverse population.

To dig deeper into consumers’ attitudes toward wellness and perception of digital wellness content, Vox Media partnered with Woo Brand Research on a survey of 1,300 consumers who read and/or watch wellness, health, and fitness content at least monthly. Successful digital publishers will recognize that wellness today is defined as taking care of a person’s entire well-being and will reflect this in their headlines and content. It is also imperative for publishers to develop effective content distribution strategies to build meaningful connections with consumers across platforms in an authentic way, as guided by our findings below.


Two in five consumers first took an active role in wellness during the pandemic, driven by the youngest generation. Over 50% of Gen Z-ers have shown a real interest in wellness over the past two years, significantly more than Millennials (40%) and Gen X (32%).


Among those new to the category, as well as consumers who have paid attention to wellness for years, the pandemic played a huge role in emphasizing the importance of mental and emotional self-care. 80% of consumers agree the pandemic helped shed light on wellness topics, including mental health, that people were afraid to bring up before. The category has expanded beyond physical appearances and reactive health such that emotional and mental well-being are most likely to be associated with health and wellness.

Consumers today are internally motivated to focus on wellness. Whereas historically, health decisions were made with the goal of outward beauty and/or avoiding physical illness, mental and emotional wellness goals are taking center stage. Priorities have shifted, with consumers drawing inspiration from a desire to feel self-confident, mentally and emotionally strong, and generally happier. They’re chasing an emotional feeling as opposed to a physical one.


Not surprisingly, nine in ten consumers perceive physical well-being as being interconnected with nutrition & food and fitness & workouts. But just as many people believe that physical well-being is directly related to emotional & mental well-being. Physical well-being is also rooted in having strong relationships, both with loved ones and with something bigger than yourself and with financial security.


As the wellness space becomes more crowded, negative perceptions are starting to creep in. One in four feel some negative sentiment when thinking about wellness, mostly from a lack of trust in content and general information overload. Technology is also a cause of concern for some in the category, who view it as more complicated than it should be.

Consumers acknowledge that certain topics are overdone, leaving them with opposing points of view, conflicting advice, and an unrealistic laundry list of product recommendations. That being said, there are certain topics that would benefit from additional coverage; over two in five consumers believe there isn’t currently enough information available about mental health, while one in four want more information about relationships & sex and how to address specific medical concerns.


Given how expansive the wellness category has become and, similarly, how much digital wellness content is available, consumers are doing what they can to make sense of it all. That starts with identifying which digital and social platforms are worth their time. YouTube ranks as the #1 favorite source for wellness content across generations. Looking at the broader media landscape, Gen Z prefers more visual platforms like Instagram and Tiktok, while older generations are more reliant on Facebook and websites. ‘

In order to build out an effective distribution strategy, marketers must consider the role each platform plays in consumers’ wellness journeys and the desired outcome of their messaging. If marketers’ goal is to encourage a new wellness behavior, such as doing a workout or listening to a meditation, YouTube is certainly the best platform as proven by the success of Popsugar’s Class Fitsugar franchise. If the priority is persuading consumers to try a product and promoting conversion, Instagram and websites are perceived as best for collecting product recommendations. Facebook and Instagram create communities and offer a feeling of connection, while TikTok is known for being fun and sparking joy. Podcasts leave listeners feeling inspired, whereas site visitors feel knowledgeable after reading content.

In response to this appetite for educational content on-site, Popsugar launched the Condition Center, an informational health hub with content guided by trusted medical professionals, national health organizations, and more. The hub features a range of issues and strives to normalize conversations about the health concerns that really matter to women. With two in five readers describing Popsugar as relatable, it’s a priority for the brand to provide its audience with relevant, approachable, and accurate information about their health.


Consuming wellness content across platforms, Popsugar readers are challenging traditional perceptions, establishing their own definitions, and embracing their own personalized wellness journeys. 88% of Popsugar readers say it is important that they have control of their own well-being and not depend on others. There is agreement that wellness is ultimately about doing things that make you happy, even if it sparks uncomfortable conversations or society may say it is “unhealthy.”

Knowing their audience craves independence and personalization, Popsugar has built a wellness vertical that offers a 360 experience spanning fitness, health, food, relationships, mental health, spirituality, fertility, and so much more. One in two wellness enthusiasts have consumed content about the topic on Popsugar, and two in five readers say Popsugar offers wellness content that they can apply to their daily life. On Popsugar, readers have an opportunity to be seen and heard and are given the tools they need to set out on personal wellness journeys that are unique to them.

About Woo Brand Research:

Woo Brand Research is an insight and strategy consulting agency specializing in helping brands understand the consumer mindset and shopper journey in the digital age. We develop custom quantitative and qualitative research to understand consumers from all angles including generational trends to effectively develop marketing communications and campaigns and brand positioning.