I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health and wellbeing lately, not least because of my new role at H+K as Thrive lead (an initiative focused on better health and wellbeing at H+K London), but because of the rise of technology in development to support it.

I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that we’re in a hyper-growth phase of digital apps and products all created to support improving our understanding and management of our mental health, wellbeing and fitness. From Peloton to Hydrow, from Calm to Bellabeat, we’re in a digital data overload all focused to optimise our health.

It is amazing really how much information we now have at our fingertips that allows us to monitor our sleep, water intake, our nutrition, our fitness and even the impact of our hormone fluctuations; all allowing you to work out how to tweak your lifestyle to ensure you are a better version of yourself.  We’re at a point that we’re making wellbeing a competitive sport – even if that’s a competition you’re having with yourself!

The rise of our global obsession was already on its way before the pandemic but we’re seeing a surge of downloads and products flooding the market, accelerating the sector as we battle through Covid-19 more mindfully, more healthily and more considered than we’ve ever been.

To put it into context we spent a whopping $24 billion in 2021 on downloads, with McKinsey estimating that the global wellness market is worth more than $1.5 trillion and has an expected 5 -10% growth year on year. So we can guess that this sector isn’t going to quietly retreat as the pandemic dissipates. If anything we can anticipate that we’ll become even more focused on it.

It’s truly remarkable just how much technology has enabled within the sector, and I am quietly fascinated as to how easy we’ve embraced the uses of technology embedded in our everyday wellbeing regime.

During this year alone we’ve seen major players such as Peloton branch out into bikes, treadmills and weights, wattbike focused on the performance analysis of its users and Bellabeat provide insights into our relationship between our hormones and fitness. As consumers we’ve embraced the data, so much so we’re even bringing it into our experience watching sports – clicking on sporting heroes stats to understand their performance. A more modern style top trumps that’s live, interactive and informative.

With so much available in the market not only is the choice overwhelming but maybe just a touch worrying – how will the data be used beyond the user, and could it even become a factor in future insurance policies or medical reviews? Is this a good thing? And, should the wellness apps actually be regulated to ensure it really is “healthy” and positive for our mindfulness? I might not have all the answers today, but governments and regulatory bodies are actively thinking about data use.

In the UK, the government has responded to last year’s consultation on the Nation Data Strategy and is planning to engage with relevant organisations, companies and individuals to ensure we’re using data in the best way we can. Additionally, the latest Smart Data Working Group report is calling for feedback on responsible data sharing and furthering cross-sector use.

It’s important for us to find ways to mitigate risks and potential negative impacts, such as safe data storage, anonymisation and ensuring true transparency and consent – as this will enable us to truly embrace the benefits of the data. There is a huge opportunity to grasp for us as individuals, but also as a society,  as data can enable a healthier population, ensure our health system provides equitable treatment across the UK, and benefit businesses and our economy to be more productive and sustainable

On a personal level, I believe that as a consumer you are educated and aware of how your data is being used. Be wary of things that are seemingly “free” as ultimately you are giving away information that is pretty important. Read the small print, and be savvy about the security and privacy rules you set up, as well as what you share publicly. Think about what you’re happy to share, with the company and with the public.

As the MD for Tech, Sport and Entertainment I am sure you can guess that I find this growth in wellbeing and health a really interesting one. It highlights just how much we as individuals want to control, how we’re being more mindful of our choices, and our desire to improve ourselves. The data not only helps us physically and mentally but can, when applied to sports, be entertaining. And, technologically I am always in awe of how much it enables when applied to our day to day lives. It’s changing our societies and economies every day. So watch this space – it’s only going to get more important!