2016 Wellness Forecast: Smart Stuff, Angry Debates and More

Marian Salzman is CEO of Havas PR North America.
Marian Salzman is CEO of Havas PR North America.

Being a trendspotter, at least at the end of a year, might not be great for your health. The work involves late nights of reviewing sightings and findings, plus the task of distilling it all into reports forecasting the new year's trends.

Then comes the stress of going public with the findings: Right or wrong, trendspotters' predictions are there for everyone to see and judge. Serious spotters even judge their own trends year-round and in following years to see how they've panned out.

This year, we're calling our übertrend “Uneasy Street.” Along with anger, a sense of unease (if not outright fear) pervades modern life. It's an abiding feeling that things aren't as they should be, that threats are looming and that people need to do something about it. Emotional alarm bells are endlessly ringing. We're trying to quiet the din as we attempt to answer the constant question: How can I make my present and my future more secure?

One way Americans are doing this is by trying harder than ever to salvage and take charge of their health and wellness—an industry only getting bigger and stronger. Here are a few wellness trends to watch for in 2016.

See also: Smart devices will improve pharma sales: survey

Tech Addict, Control Thyself: The jury of informed opinion is out on whether technology is ruining our relationships, but people can't help worrying as must-touch devices penetrate every corner of life. Expect to see programs for cyber self-control becoming as common as diets and exercise plans…and expect them to have about as much effect, as each new cycle of technology is more addictive than the one before.

(Under Armour's SpeedForm Gemini 2 smart sneakers aim to track your workout without a wristband activity tracker. Photo credit: tomemrich/Creative Commons)

Getting Smart: We love smart stuff. Smartwatches track our daily activity, smart fabrics monitor vital signs, smart shoes navigate our journeys and smart drugs boost cognitive functioning. A sign of things to come: The smart fitness-wear brand Athos promises users will see athletic gains faster via a fabric that measures muscle activity and heart rate as they exercise.

Cooking, RIP: More and more of the activity in American kitchens involves warming up ready-to-eat meals and precooked ingredients. Meanwhile, nutritionists reckon that people who often cook meals at home “eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less,” according to a Johns Hopkins study. Look for the market for healthier easy-cook and no-cook foods to keep rising.

Going Retail: Forbes predicts that retail care will go mainstream this year, with a 35% increase in the footprint of in-store clinics. 2016 might well be the year when retail's investments in this realm pay off and retail starts becoming the front line of primary care.

See also: Can Marketing Accelerate the Health Insurance Buying Cycle?

Insurance Remains Out of Reach for Many: A study from PwC found that the percentage of employers that offer only high-deductible plans has almost doubled since 2012—now equaling a full quarter of US companies. These “consumer-directed” health plans might be good for businesses' bottom lines, but they're often bad for employees' health: 28% of people skipped seeing a doctor because of cost, while 24% skipped doses or took less of their prescription medicines. Most employers report that the Affordable Care Act is not a cost driver, but we expect the debate to rage (angrily) as the 2016 election heats up.

Vegging Out: An article in US News & World Report recently reported that “to the delight of registered dietitians, the National Restaurant Association has named veggie-centric plates” as a major trend this year. Even if chefs don't go full veg, they'll be experimenting with dishes that make fresh produce the star, with smaller amounts of meat taking a supporting flavor-enhancing role. And plant-only choices will grow in number and be marketed as simply delicious, rather than specifically vegetarian.

(Turmeric is expected to be the spice of 2016 in cooking. Photo credit: Anant Nath Sharma/Creative Commons)

Time for Turmeric: We noted it in our food trends report earlier this year—specifically that it will cross over as a food/beauty ingredient—and US News also reported that turmeric is expected to be the spice of 2016 in cooking. Why? Research has suggested that it might help ease inflammation. Expect to see it everywhere, from smoothies to savory dishes to lip balms.

Marian Salzman is CEO of Havas PR North America.