There have been countless studies that have sought to assess, objectively, the health of populations, now Ericsson has undertaken a comprehensive study to determine individuals’—totally subjective—assessments of their own ‘wellness’ and to link this to their attitudes towards wearables, self-quantification and the Internet as aids to health and wellbeing.
The findings are reported in an Ericsson Consumerlab report Living longer: Wellness and the Internet that attempts to assess the impact of the Internet on consumer attitudes to health and fitness.
It concludes that individuals’ interest in their own health and wellness “will spur technological development with high usage that will have the potential to transform society at a quicker pace than any other area that we have studied.”
However there is as yet no clarity on what organisations will take responsibility for wearable delivered and quantifiable self services.
“Although there is potential for wellness to cause fast-paced consumer-driven societal change, what may hold it back is the complexity of the ecosystems that need to develop for this to happen,” Ericsson says.
“Although many players will try to deliver wellness services that meet the demand for function and design, the question of who consumers will trust to handle the transfer of their information between services remains open.”
South Africans the ‘wellest’ of all
The study produced some surprising results: only one percent of Japanese and South Korean consumers are completely satisfied with their wellness, However 29 percent of Indians and 36 percent of South Africans are completely satisfied. Australians are a pretty dissatisfied lot in this regard: only about five percent of us are completely satisfied with our wellness and about 15 percent of us are not satisfied, the fifth lowest percentage after Japan, South Korea, Sweden and Russia.
The study found growing interest in the quantified self. Between 10 and 20 percent of those surveyed, depending on region, quantify their behaviour at least weekly and at least 30 percent are interested in doing so with the figure rising to 50 percent in Asia and Oceania. Figures were similar for use of, or interest in, wearables.
Wearables the key to wellness
The report concluded that, with 12 percent of consumers around the world already using wearables, they are no longer just a novelty. “Instead, consumers are clearly starting to use these devices as part of a project to improve their wellness, when it comes to both looks and health.” In Australia Ericsson found 14 percent of respondents already using wearables and 17 percent interested in doing so.
Ericsson found great expectations for the benefits of wearables and self-quantification on health and wellness. “Consumers expect that wearables will make it possible to monitor and correspondingly adjust behaviours, and as a result, will let them live healthier and potentially longer lives.
Respondents were also interested in using wearables to handle stress. “Consumers believe that monitoring and regulating their stress levels could increase life expectancy by two years on average,” the report said. “Traditional jogging apps and other technologies monitoring physical activity are still sought after, with consumers believing they will increase their life expectancies by 1.9 years.”
Quantify and live longer
The report added: “Our research shows that smartphone owners see cloud-based services of various kinds giving them the potential to live healthier and longer lives – whether the technology can be worn or not. Consequently, monitoring methods go beyond smartphones and wearables. Cups and plates that measure the intake of calories, salt and unhealthy ingredients are believed to increase life expectancy by 1.8 years and those that identify food allergies could give an extra 1.3 years on average. Pillows and sheets that monitor sleep patterns and medicine bottles that regulate medicine intake would potentially add 1.1 years each.”
Consumers were also quizzed on their attitudes to specific wearable/personal monitoring devices. Forty two percent of consumers would use a heart rate monitoring ring that syncs with their phone and alerts them when their heart rate reaches a dangerous level every day. Thirty three percent want their smartphones to collect medical stats in a digital health network that physicians can access, and 48 percent say they would use a posture sensor that gives cues about body movements and future injury risks on a daily basis.