Top 8 Health Trends for 2021-2025

by Josh Howarth - June 29, 2021

This is a list of emerging health trends for 2021 and beyond.

In this new report we’ll cover:

  • How telemedicine is changing healthcare
  • Millennials are opting for “self care”
  • Advanced robotics technology being used in the healthcare world
  • Why fasting is taking off
  • Lots more

With that, let’s start with our first trend:

1. Surging Demand for Telemedicine

Telemedicine is expected to grow from $45.5 billion to $175.5 billion by 2026.

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Growth of the telemedicine industry through 2026.

Virtual healthcare services were already growing before COVID-19. 

But the pandemic caused interest in this area to skyrocket.

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Search interest in “telehealth” over time.

One notable player in this space is Hims, Inc.

Hims provides virtual medical visits with general practitioners.

They also offer psychiatric consults, consults for prescription hair-loss medicine, prescription acne cream and more.

All presented via an ecommerce-style website. (Actually, two: forhims.com and forhers.com.)

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Hims, Inc. offers online medical services in an ecommerce shopping experience.

Other telehealth businesses include the British Babylon Health and the French Doctolib, both of which offer mobile apps for virtual medical consults.

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Google search growth for "Babylon Health" over time.

As well as the US-based Teladoc, which offers 24/7 access to telehealth consults with doctors and has a market cap of $15 billion.

Not to mention InTouch Health, which offers a platform for healthcare providers to offer their own virtual care services.

Of course, for Americans, the biggest question is always “Will my insurance cover it?”

But in the case of telehealth, the answer is “yes”: 42 states (and Washington, DC) now legally require private insurers to cover telehealth services.

Which is an important development: according to Accenture, 62% of consumers would prefer a virtual healthcare option in at least some instances.

2. Millennials prioritize self-care

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Google search growth for "self-care" have increased by 152% over five years.

Self-care is an extremely popular spending category among Millennials, who spend more than twice as much on it as Baby Boomers do.

As part of the multi-trillion-dollar global wellness industry, 9 out of 10 Americans practice some kind of self-care.

And a third of them have increased their self-care activities recently.

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Americans are investing more time and money into self-care than ever before.

This trend includes habits, products and services that help achieve the overall goal of well-being.

(Both mental and physical.)

For example, meditation apps have been on a tear recently.

As a group, the top 10 meditation apps brought in an estimated $195 million in 2019: up 52% from the year before.

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Searches for “meditation app” have been rising.

Founded in 2012, Calm (the startup behind the popular Calm meditation app) was last valued at $2 billion. (Up from $250M in 2018.)

Other growing major meditation apps include Headspace, Waking Up, Breethe, Insight Timer and Ten Percent Happier.

Skincare is another product category that’s been booming as part of the self-care movement.

As we reported last week, skincare sales have been rising by about 5% per year since 2014.

And 2020 is a historic year for skincare products, as they started outselling makeup products for the first time.

Skincare incumbents like L'Oreal's CeraVe have been taking full advantage of this wave.

But so have newer brands like Goop, Acaderma and DRMTLGY.

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Searches for skincare startup DRMTLGY have exploded recently.

When it comes to self-care purchases, consumers are reportedly very open to experimenting with new brands, services and product types.

Leaving a big opening for skincare startups to make a dent.

That openness to new products also explains how CBD products, which were not legalized nationwide in the US until 2018, are now used by 28% of US consumers.

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Industry studies show that almost a third of all Americans use CBD.

As a category, CBD products are expected to reach $20 billion in sales by 2024.

People are placing more importance on sleep now, too.

(35.3% of adults get less than sleep than they should, and loss of sleep has been linked to health problems like depression, obesity and diabetes.)

Though the pandemic has slowed it down its growth, one highly trending solution to sleep loss is sleep pods.

Sleep pods are enclosed, private bedrooms for naps or overnight sleeping in public spaces like airports, train stations, shopping malls and business offices.

Organizations like Google, Mercedes-Benz, HuffPost and NASA now all offer pods, rooms or beds for their employees to take power naps at the office.

Sellers of sleep pods include MetroNaps (which uses a partly-enclosed chair design for its EnergyPods), Podtime (which uses a fully enclosed design), and Pop & Rest (which operates its own napping centers and also sells sleep pods).

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The MetroNaps EnergyPod.

At home, the priority is sleep hygiene: optimizing your habits and bedroom for better sleep.

Trackers like the Oura Ring are helping people understand their sleep cycles and improve their habits.

Another way people are getting better sleep is with apps like SleepTown.

SleepTown is a habit-tracking and coaching app with one goal: to help you sleep more.

And apparently, it works: searches for “SleepTown” have increased 2,700% over the past 5 years.

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The SleepTown app.

The same app developer that made SleepTown is also behind Forest.

This app helps with productivity as well as work-life balance (another component of self-care.)

Specifically, SleepTown  uses gamification to help people spend less time on their smartphones.

It effectively locks your phone with a slow animation of a growing tree. If you interrupt its growth by using the phone for something else before the timer runs out, the tree dies.

3. Fasting goes mainstream

The global weight loss and obesity management market is forecasted to exceed $253.1 billion by 2024, at a compound annual growth rate of 6.2%.

And 43% of Americans say they’ve followed a specific diet or eating pattern within the last year.

(Up from only 38% in 2019.)

Interestingly, the #1 most-popular eating pattern is now intermittent fasting.

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5-year growth in search interest for intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is the practice of avoiding all food and beverages except water, coffee and unsweetened tea for an extended period of time.

In practice, it’s used in two different ways:

The first is every day, typically for a majority of the day.

For example, “16:8” intermittent fasting consists of an 8 hour eating window during the day, followed by a 16 hour fasting window overnight and into the next day.

This is also called “time-restricted eating”.

And it’s been shown to help with fat loss, enhance aerobic capacity and reduce the risk of diabetes.

The other way intermittent fasting is used is occasionally avoiding all foods for a full 24 hour period or longer.

(Sometimes this is simply called “fasting”.)

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Searches for "fasting" spike every holiday season. But are still seeing generally strong long-term growth.

Studies show that longer fasting periods like these can protect heart function, reduce the risk or symptoms of diseases like Alzheimer’s, and perhpaps even improve lifespan.

While an impressive 87% of those who have tried intermittent fasting to lose weight say it was effective for that purpose.

Intermittent fasting is clearly a popular — and apparently effective — diet.

So it’s no surprise that a variety of products and companies have emerged to help people stick with it.

For example:

Mobile apps like Zero and LIFE, which offer fasting timers and tips. As well as integration with social apps and fitness trackers.

As the most popular fasting app, Zero alone has now logged over 2 billion fasted hours.

Founded by entrepreneur and investor Kevin Rose, the company recently raised an $8 million Series A round led by Greycroft.

And both Zero and LIFE also offer premium memberships with additional features like personalized coaching. (Zero’s costs $69.99 per year while LIFE’s costs $2.99 per month.)

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Searches for “Zero app” over time.

Fasting tea is another growing fasting-related product category.

Just about any plain tea can be used for fasting purposes, like green tea, black tea, hibiscus, ginger, and more.

These teas can help make fasting easier than water alone.

And it’s thought that caffeinated teas may help increase the effectiveness of the fast.

There are also specialized teas like the crystallized Pique Tea.

Pique creates its concentrated teas through a “cold-brew crystallization” process, resulting in a form of tea that dissolves in hot or cold water.

Zero Tea is another brand that’s geared toward fasting purposes.

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Search interest in fasting tea has been ramping up in recent years.

Intermittent fasting kits are another product type in this space.

Some people consider temporary periods of caloric restriction to be intermittent fasting as well.

So intermittent fasting kits can include a variety of supplements and/or foods, to be portioned out over a series of days.

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Searches for “intermittent fasting kit” over time.

There are also a variety of diets related to intermittent fasting. Including the fasting mimicking diet, the Longevity Diet, the Warrior Diet, alternate day fasting and OMAD.

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Search volume for ”OMAD” over time.

And the fasting meta trend goes beyond food.

Non-dietary fasts include:

  • Skin fasts — avoiding skincare products for a period of days or weeks, which some dermatologists say allows the skin to return to its natural balance.
  • Dopamine fasts — a fast from excitement, in order for people to let themselves feel bored and reset their ability to focus.
  • Screen fasts, social media fasts and media fasts — similar to a dopamine fast, these fasts are intended to give yourself a break from exciting or anxiety-producing stimulation.

4. Rise of medial robots

The global medical robotics market is forecasted to reach $24.87 billion by 2025, up from $7.2 billion in 2019.

Robotic-assisted surgical equipment makes up most of the market currently, with industry leader Intuitive Surgical earning over $4 billion per year alone.

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Search interest in Intuitive Surgical over time.

Intuitive Surgical makes Da Vinci surgical robots.

As of the end of 2019, more than 7.2 million procedures had been completed with them.

The Da Vinci isn’t autonomous: it’s a tool that surgeons operate.

But it helps them make more precise incisions and sutures, thanks to features like its “adaptive motion scaling”.

(The system also allows for telesurgery — where, for example, a surgeon in New York can operate on a patient in California. But this practice is still in very early stages and not widely done.)

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The Intuitive Surgical Da Vinci.

Intuitive also sells a robotic-assisted platform for minimally invasive lung biopsies. As of this writing, the company has a market cap of $84 billion.

Competitors include Stryker ($79B market cap) and Medtronic ($146B), both of which also sell non-robotic medical devices.

Only about 2% of global surgeries use robotic assistance, which leaves huge room for growth.

But the surgical segment isn’t expected to be the fastest-growing portion of medical robotics.

That crown belongs to rehabilitation robots.

The rehabilitation robotics category is forecasted to grow from $530 million in 2018 to $2.6 billion in 2026.

One rehabilitation robot is the EksoNR by Ekso Bionics.

The EksoNR is an exoskeleton that lets patients with brain injuries stand and walk during their rehabilitation.

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The EksoNR by Ekso Bionics.

Ekso Bionics also produces the EksoUE, for upper-body mobility.

Other rehabilitation robotics include:

The Armeo Power by Hocoma. This Switzerland-based company boasts that 9 of the 10 best U.S. rehabilitation hospitals use their solutions.

A whole range of bionics from Cyberdyne, including for the legs, the lower back and the elbow.

The ReWalk Exoskeleton and ReStore Exo-Suit, which are also available for personal use.

(The ReWalk Exoskeleton was the first exoskeleton to get FDA clearance for personal and rehabilitation use.)

And the InMotion ARM by Bionik, which is a type of robotic device known as an “end-effector” system.

Unlike an exoskeleton, the base of the InMotion ARM system stays in one place while part of it is used by the patient.

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The InMotion ARM, a fixed robotic rehabilitation device.

It’s still early days for rehabilitation robots, but studies have shown that their use can strongly improve motor recovery in injured patients.

Exoskeletons are also being tested as a way to give mobility to paralyzed people who are beyond rehabilitation.

As a whole, the exoskeleton robotics market is expected to grow at an 45.2% compound annual growth rate, reaching $2.8 billion in value by 2023.

(Though part of that growth will be fueled by military and industrial applications.)

Here are some other examples of robotics in healthcare:

XENEX disinfection robots. In the U.S., about as may people die from healthcare-associated infections as from AIDS, breast cancer and car accidents combined. XENEX robots use UV light to disinfect hospital rooms and surgery wards, reducing infection rates by 50-100%.

Cell-sized Nanorobots, which are being developed at University of California San Diego to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Robotic prosthetics: bionic arms and legs with receptors that allow patients’ to “feel” as if they were their natural limbs. These aren’t yet in widespread use, but three Swedish patients have been living with such prostheses for years.

Moxi, a friendly robotic hospital assistant. It brings supplies to patients’ rooms, delivers lab samples, transports soiled linens and more.

The Medineering endoscopic robot, which can move and hold an endoscope (tiny camera) inside a patient’s body with more precision than human hands can.

Small “capsule robots” being developed by Vanderbilt University for colonoscopies, biopsies and polyp removal.

The world’s first implantable bionic human eye, developed by Australia’s Monash University and successfully trialed in sheep in July.

Autonomous robots may be able to conduct surgery (or parts of it) on their own in human patients within a few years.

One was already able to outperform human surgeons in a controlled testing environment in 2016.

5. Increased concern about mental health

Mental health is a topic that was beginning to emerge from the shadows before the pandemic.

Now, post-pandemic, the topic has been moved to the forefront of conversations in homes, schools, and workplaces.

The 2021 State of Mental Health in America Report showed that 19% of Americans are living with a mental health condition.

That’s more than 47 million people—1.5 million more than in 2020.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that more than 30% of adults in the US currently report symptoms of anxiety or depression.

That’s an increase of 29% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The states with the highest percentage of adults with symptoms of anxiety or depression are Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

Workplaces are becoming more focused on mental health.

One survey of 300 workplaces reported that 84% of respondents said mental health became a higher priority for their company in 2020.

More than half of the companies surveyed said their employees are expecting the company to do more in terms of mental health support.

There are also increased mental health concerns when it comes to children and teenagers.

Shortly after the pandemic began, EVERFI surveyed thousands of students and found nearly 40% were concerned about their mental well-being and more than half reported feeling more stressed than before the pandemic.

A recent study by America’s Promise Alliance found that the numbers are much higher.

They report 72% of American high school juniors and seniors say they’ve struggled with mental health during the pandemic.

In late 2020, survey results showed that 22% of parents felt their child (between the ages of 5 and 12 years old) had shown an overall worsening of mental or emotional health.

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A survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the pandemic has had serious mental health effects on children between the ages of 5 and 12.

Some teens are advocating for “mental health days” in order to be able to take a day off from the stress of school.

Students in Maryland went so far as to work with local officials to introduce legislation regarding mental health days in the Maryland general assembly. The bill is currently in the committee stage.

Investors are tapping into the increased emphasis on mental health.

Reinsurance Group of America reports that investors put more than $1 billion into mental health and wellness startups through the third quarter of 2020.

One of those startups is Brightline, a mental health platform for kids and teens.

The company raised $72 million in a recent Series B funding round, bringing their total funding to nearly $100 million.

Lyra Health is another start-up that’s had great success this year.

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The search term “Lyra Health” has seen almost 600% growth in the last five years.

The company is aimed at helping employers provide mental health services to their employees.

The five-year-old company recently raised $200 million in new funding and is currently valued at $4.6 billion.

The number of mental health apps is on the rise, too.

One expert said the total number is between 10k and 20k apps.

The meditation app Headspace is one of the most successful mental health apps.

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The growth of Headspace over the past five years.

It’s been downloaded more than 70 million times.

The brand recently launched two series focused on peaceful sleep and meditation on Netflix and a podcast channel with Apple podcasts.

The $320-million company has partnered with big-name brands like Microsoft, Sesame Street, and Solera Health.

6. Healthcare strategies begin to rely on AI

The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere in our world today, especially in the healthcare sector.

For many years, AI’s presence in healthcare has been stuck—a topic that’s discussed but not implemented.

For example, nearly half of hospitals say they have an AI strategy, but only 29 percent of hospitals report having implemented the strategy.

But in the coming years, we will likely see the capabilities of AI in the healthcare sector come to fruition.

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Healthcare AI has exploded in the last five years, with a search growth of 1100%.

The 2020 Optum Survey on Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare found that 95% of those surveyed are currently looking to hire staff with experience in developing AI.

The survey also found that nearly 60% of health care execs are expecting AI to provide a return in just three years. In 2018, only 31% believed a return was possible on that timeline.

According to an Intel report, the pandemic has rapidly accelerated the adoption of AI in the healthcare field.

When surveyed in pre-COVID 2020, 45% of respondents said their healthcare organization was currently using or will be using AI.

Post-COVID, that number jumped to 84%.

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Interest in AI among healthcare executives has risen over the past three years, with the biggest jump being seen post-pandemic.

AI is now being used in direct patient care.

One example: New York’s Northwell Health is using AI in its transitions of the care management program.

They report that patients who received treatment based on AI recommendations had 23.6% fewer readmissions than similar patients who didn’t receive AI treatment recommendations.

Northwell Health values these cost savings at more than $11k per patient.

AI is also being used for the early detection of health issues.

Nines is an AI-driven company that helps radiologists diagnose illnesses quicker.

Their NinesAI software can alert radiologists to a life-threatening diagnosis within 15 seconds after the scan.

In 2021, the $50-million company was named to Forbes’ list of the top 50 most promising AI companies.

Komodo Health is another example of a healthcare AI startup.

The company is putting together an AI-driven “healthcare map” that tracks nearly 325 million de-identified patients throughout their healthcare journey.

With all of the data and analytics they’ve amassed, they are selling tools to those who need market intelligence in the healthcare industry.

Their most recent funding round brought in $220 million and the company is now valued at $3.3 billion.

7. Probiotics and prebiotics go mainstream

“Gut health” has been a popular buzzword for the past few years.

This trend is driven, in part, by the fact that gastrointestinal symptoms are extremely prevalent in the United States.

One study found that more than 60% of people have at least one uncomfortable GI symptom per week.

According to one stat, Google searches for “gut health” have risen 669% over the past five years.

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Interest in gut health has surged over the last five years.

Scientific research has concluded that a healthy gut microbiome prevents disease, improves the immune system, and even regulates brain behavior.

Humans need a certain level of good bacteria in their gut in order for it to function properly.

There are two types of widely available supplements that are sold with the goal of increasing this good bacteria: probiotics and prebiotics

Probiotics, living strains of bacteria that boost the population of good bacteria in the gut, are one of the top-selling gut health supplements in the United States.

The market took in an estimated $56.6 billion in 2020.

Experts suggest the probiotic market could have a CAGR of 6.7% from 2020 to 2027 and reach $76.7 billion by 2027.

The executive director of the International Probiotics Association reports the market was up by 6.5% in 2020.

The closely related prebiotic market is growing even faster. Prebiotics are plant fibers that act as food for good gut bacteria.

The prebiotic market is forecasted to grow at 12.7% over the next eight years.

Sun Genomics is one health startup that’s seen success in the probiotic market.

The company will analyze a stool sample of a customer and then create a custom probiotic blend specifically for that person.

They’ve only been around since 2016, but have secured $11.75 million in funding.

Zbiotics is a different kind of probiotic company.

They’re genetically engineering probiotics in order to cure hangovers.

This man-made probiotic works by breaking down acetaldehyde in the gut—that’s the chemical responsible for the hungover feeling.

In five years, they’ve raised $5.7 million in total funding.

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News about ZBiotics started to spread in 2020, and searches for the company continue to spike periodically.

The gut health trend isn’t just limited to humans. Companies are now marketing gut-health products to pet owners too.

Animal Biome will analyze a stool sample from a cat or dog to determine the pet’s gut imbalances.

Based on the results, the company will recommend one of their pet supplements.

So far, Animal Biome has raised $12 million in investor funding.

8. Expanding use of health wearables

In 2020, the global market for wearable medical devices was valued at $16.6 billion.

Even more, it’s expected to grow at a CAGR of 26.8% through 2028.

The wearable market encompasses everything from devices aimed at diagnosing or monitoring a medical condition, to sleep trackers, to fitness trackers.

One of the most interesting recent developments in this trend is the ability of wearables to predict COVID-19 infections.

In mid-2020, the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) and Department of Medicine teamed up with Oura Health to create a platform that could predict COVID-19 infection three days in advance with 90% accuracy.

The platform combined RNI’s mobile app, where users could report things like stress and anxiety, and Oura’s smart ring, which monitored physiological data like body temperature and heart rate.

Oura’s potential for tracking COVID-19 was convincing to the WNBA and NBA.

Both leagues had their players wear the rings and consistently monitor their “risk score” while playing in the bubble during the 2020 season.

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Oura Rings have exploded in popularity. Searches are up 4,100% over the past five years.

Many fitness and sleep-tracking wearables are utilizing a membership model.

Amazon’s Halo Band is $99, but Amazon strongly pushes the membership suite in order for users to get the full impact of the technology.

Whoop functions on a similar business model.

The company will give users the fitness-tracking strap for free, but members must sign up for the $30 per-month membership in order to see their data.

Since its founding in 2011, Whoop’s business has continued to grow. They’re currently valued at $1.2 billion.

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Searches for “Whoop” continue to climb. They’re up 75% over the last five years.

Conclusion

That concludes our list of fast-growing health and wellness trends happening right now.

It’s interesting to note how many of these trends (like robotics) are due to cutting-edge tech.

While others (like fasting) take cues from the past.

Written By
Josh Howarth
Co-founder of Exploding Topics.
548 Market St. Suite 95149
San Francisco, California
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