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The Age of Millennials

Changing lifestyles and changing trends which are shaping the market at an unprecedented rate

Words Golnaz Bassam-Tabar

There is endless debate and discussion around the implications of modern living on our health and wellbeing. With the all encompassing digital revolution, even technology has brought its own myriad of health and wellness implications. It seems that wherever you turn, someone has something to say about how we’re living and how it affects us. But there are undoubtedly global trends worldwide whose consequential effects are felt through all of our lives, touching everything from our physical and mental health, relationships, productivity and output, cultural evolution and general quality of life.

How we eat, what we eat, when we sleep, how we work and what we do for fun has all changed dramatically over the last 30 years. We are busier and more stressed than ever before with family, career and social expectations posing a crushing weight on our daily lives. Recent research by Business New Zealand and Southern Cross Health Society shows stress levels in Kiwi employees has increased by 20 per cent in two years and 30.5 per cent for those in big companies.

Earlier this year, performance hydration innovators 1Above conducted a social media survey to understand better understand the lifestyle needs and choices of its customers. The survey found that of more than 350 respondents, 29 per cent said they were stressed half of the time, while 18.5 per cent said they were stressed all of the time, and a vast majority said they only enjoyed ‘average’ sleep.

Many respondents reported feeling tired with 37 per cent saying they are tired half of the time, 18.5 per cent saying they are tired most of the time and one in 10 saying they are tired all of the time.

Ph.D registered nutritionist Mikki Williden says increasingly, time is becoming a commodity we do not seem to have enough of which heavily impacts our lifestyle choices. “We seem to be working more, or differently, and with flexible hours, the boundaries between home and work are being blurred which can negatively impact both sleep (as we are working later, even if not in the office) and diet – relying on more convenience foods,” she says.

“The reduction in sleep time leads to more people relying on stimulants such as alcohol and sugar to boost their energy and alertness, but also help them unwind at the end of the day. However, the resulting crash makes them crave high fat and high sugar processed foods – which can result in a ticking time bomb from a health perspective. They may not notice it now, but in years to come it will become apparent.”

Williden says research has demonstrated the effects of excess caffeine and sugar in the system consumed as an energy drink which wreaks havoc on our blood sugar levels. “Over time this is going to create an inflammatory effect which will have negative impacts on our metabolic health and increase our risk of disease – particularly keeping up with the pace of a modern lifestyle. It seems the companies that make these drinks have a pretty solid marketing team behind them, which is why we see them advertised everywhere! These drinks pretty much epitomise the worst aspects of the modern diet. The less people drink these, the better,” she warns.

Sara Chatwin, registered psychologist and mind coach, with more than 20 years experience, helps clients from all over the world cope with internal and external stress factors to achieve a more balanced and fulfilling lifestyle, and says today people seem to more aware of health issues with conversations about health being more open and freer than what used to be.

“Our conversations about health issues such as depression, obesity and cancer have become more frequent due to increases in some of these diseases. Now more than ever people appear to be more focused on how to minimise these health risks and sustain a fit and healthy condition as they progress through life,” she says.

According to the World Health Organisation’s Global Health Risks – Mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks report, the leading global risk for mortality in the world is high blood pressure, which accounted for 13 per cent of deaths around the world between 2004 and 2009, with smoking following closely at 9 per cent death rate.

The report cites physical inactivity killing people at a rate of 6 per cent and on the other end of the scale, overweight and obesity claiming 5 per cent of lives across the globe. Unsurprisingly, it points to these health issues as being the driving factors behind the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers affecting all levels of society across the globe and socio-economic groups.

It is now a well known fact that obesity is a major risk factor behind heart diseases, diabetes, and premature death with the condition getting worse in many developed countries. According to countless studies, the number of overweight people is increasing while normal weight is declining. A three-year long International Employee Assistance Programme data collated in 2014 after four years of looking at more than 100,000 employees revealed a staggering 50 per cent increase in total depression, anxiety and stress cases reported.

The World Health Organisation also puts 60 per cent of health and quality of life factors as being related to people’s lifestyle. The emerging health and wellness trend tends to combine the physical and mental, with Chatwin restating the necessity for the mind and body working together to achieve a ‘healthy ideal’.

“I’m a great proponent of the mind and body working together to produce results, which means illnesses such as depression for example, can be related to diet in my view,” Chatwin says.

But consumers are also becoming more aware of what they’re putting into their body. Many of our decisions are driven by convenience and lack of time, rather than actual ignorance. The 2016 Global Consumer Trends survey found many consumers around the world are cautious about what they are willing eat and drink, with 53 per cent of them avoiding at least five separate ingredients in 2016.

Consumer behaviour is shifting towards conscious consumption

This has given a rise to health and wellness businesses innovating to keep up with market demand as consumer behaviour shifts towards conscious consumption. Sodas, energy and sports drinks are being pushed aside as yesterday’s beverages, with new products taking prominent spaces on supermarket and petrol station shelves.

Such trends have typically given rise to the health and wellness market flourishing, with companies such as 1Above using the opportunity to innovate beyond their starting position of offering world-first travel recovery products. Earlier in the year, they extended their range of performance hydration products and launched a low sugar, anti-oxidant based everyday Recovery drink, and have just launched two new low sugar, anti-oxidant based Energy and Endurance performance hydration products.

Williden who has studied the products says while water is her go-to choice, people need more healthy alternatives to current foods and drinks on readily available. “These are genuinely lower sugar alternatives to other flavoured drinks out there and don’t contain any artificial sweeteners, which is a bonus in my book. Water is my first choice but sometimes people just want another alternative for a change and won’t choose water.

“While the ‘energy’ drink contains caffeine, it is not in amounts that are anywhere near what you will find in a serving of a standard energy drink. These would be good options. Further, they have some innovative ingredients which are just emerging out of research. Currently there aren’t enough lower sugar alternatives for people to consider, with high sugar and beverages that contain artificial sweeteners dominating the beverage landscape. This is another drink to begin to level the playing field (though we’ve got some way to go!)

Like Williden, Chatwin also believes while water is the best option it is not enough for most of us. “For many people, the idea of bottled drinks just appeals for too many reasons such as flavours and functions and when it is a healthy drink in that bottle, it is a really convenient temptation,” she points out.”

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