The Future of Wellbeing in Asia

Two monumental challenges, laden with opportunity, impacting the health and happiness of consumers in Asia.

The Future of Wellbeing in Asia

Two monumental challenges, laden with opportunity, impacting the health and happiness of consumers in Asia.

Welcome to the Asian Edition of our deep dive on The Future of Wellbeing.

In the last five decades Asia achieved unparalleled economic growth, elevating hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty. Great news for overall consumer wellbeing! Right? Or perhaps it’s not so simple…

Shapeshifting into modern, more affluent societies has brought with it a new set of wellbeing problems. One example? The obesity epidemic: cheaper food prices, higher incomes, and more sedentary urban jobs mean that across Asia, richer urbanites are eating more and moving less.

In this publication, we will explore how best-in-class innovators are tackling the mammoth challenges impacting the wellbeing of billions of Asians.

As we enter the next decade, these trends represent emerging consumer expectations around wellbeing, and actionable opportunities for you to innovate around!

Before we dive in, two disclaimers:

As with our global report: we have chosen to go beyond discussing wellness and fitness, and to broaden our scope to consumer wellbeing.

Here’s the definition we are working with:
Wellbeing (n): the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous.

As such, we have also completely skipped over Insta-wellness. You will not find anything here on #eatclean, #fitspo hashtags or the latest underwater yoga retreat in Bali. If you’re looking for the next ancient practice to repackage and mark-up like jade facial rollers for the wellness hipsters, look elsewhere.

Instead, we are highlighting pressing consumer wellbeing needs – from the depressing dangers of our digital lives to the unseen perils of pollution, each one is a quandary for the bravest of innovators to take on.

Ready to get cracking? Let’s go!

Clients of our Premium service can access five monumental trends as they relate to wellbeing in Asia, here we are sharing two of those with you:

1. THE ASIAN BURNOUT: The pursuit of economic progress has left hordes of stressed Asians in its wake. For many consumers, peak mental health is now the new wealth.

2. HAPPINESS IS IN THE AIR: Living in the region with the most severe case of air pollution, Asian consumers are looking for practical solutions to this often unseen problem.

The Trends for 2020

On Wednesday, November 6th, our top analysts will be heading to the National Design Centre to present The Trends for 2020 in Singapore.

Join them to discover what opportunities lie ahead for your organization. The next decade will be bursting with opportunity for those innovators who are prepared and brave enough to act!



Peak mental health is the new wealth

Fresh from epoch-defining economic growth that pulled hundreds of millions out of poverty, Asian consumers are now shifting their primary pursuit from economic wellbeing towards mental wellbeing. What’s the value in being better off financially than the previous generation if one’s health and happiness is lower?

The opportunities here are endless. In the coming years, brands must address the pressures of progress, facilitate open conversations around the subject, cultivate healthier cultures and mindsets among the population, and deliver solutions that boost Asian consumers’ mental health.

Why now?


Asians have always had strong ideas around success and its pursuit, influencing societal views on career choices, work ethics and educational achievements. This has had an adverse effect on wellbeing – according to Cigna, 92% Singaporeans are stressed from work, while 95% Indian millennials report stress, more than any other country surveyed.


That Asian view of success, however, has lately been put under renewed scrutiny. At the beginning of 2019 we wrote ANTI-AFFLUENZA, and the sentiment has only escalated, fueled by a combination of shifting local values and global discourse: from Jack Ma’s 996 comments to various discussions on millennial burnout and hustle culture.


At the same time, awareness around the importance of mental health is on the rise. 71% Asian consumers today associate ‘health’ with ‘mental health’, more than the 68% who associate ‘health’ only with physical health, or the 51% who associate it with simply ‘not being sick’ (JWT Well Economy, November 2018).


  • OOCA — Online mental health platform to support Thai students

    Thailand-based mental health startup Ooca announced in Q1 2019 that it was seeking corporate donations to help fund the launch of a corporate social responsibility platform aimed at helping university students deal with the stresses of school life. Ooca offers its users video sessions with a therapist through its website and a free app. Starting at THB 1000 (USD 31) for 30 minutes, costs vary depending on the type of counselor and duration of the consultation. A separate pricing structure is available for employers – as of January 2019, 11 companies with a total of 35,000 employees had signed up for the corporate plan.

  • The Breathe Movement — First mental health film festival hosted in Singapore »

    Held in February 2019, the aim of the Singapore Mental Health Film Festival was to encourage conversations around mental health. Organized by The Breathe Movement, a local social enterprise promoting the benefits of yoga, the festival showcased seven films centered around topics such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and dementia. The first festival of its kind in Singapore, the screenings were accompanied by a series of panels and workshops addressing issues like living with a family member’s mental health condition and how to integrate meditation into daily life.

  • The Dawn — Retreat offers burnout rehab for executives

    A Thailand-based rehab and wellness center, The Dawn, launched a therapeutic retreat for burnt-out executives in Q2 2019. The program is designed to help overworked executives cope with and prevent workplace stress. Participants undergo a psychological evaluation and are involved in activities such as personal training, meditation, yoga, one-on-one and group therapy, trauma release sessions and transcranial magnetic stimulation treatments. The cost of the two-week program is USD 6,000.

  • 996.ICU — Github home to Chinese tech workers’ protest over working conditions

    Microsoft’s code sharing platform Github became the home of a protest in Q2 2019 over the long working hours required by many of China’s largest companies, including Alibaba and Huawei. The protest is under the 996.ICU repository, a reference to the work schedule of 9:00am to 9:00pm, six days a week, requiring admittance to an intensive care unit (ICU) for exhaustion. It also pushes for adoption of the Anti-996 license whereby companies using a coder’s open-source software must agree to follow Chinese and international labor standards and includes a blacklist of companies not paying required overtime.

  • Crazy — Company rewards employees who sleep well

    Japan-based wedding organizers Crazy is awarding points to employees who sleep at least six hours a night for five or more days a week. Launched in October 2018, the scheme allows points to be exchanged for food in the company cafeteria (up to a maximum of USD 570 a year). Sleep is tracked through an app made by mattress manufacturer Airweave Inc.

Your response?


How can you offer moments of care for Asia’s stressed urbanites? The Dawn in Thailand is taking a stab at caring for burnt-out executives, but not all brands will be able to deliver a full-blown retreat. Instead, can you embed small wellbeing boosters into consumers’ daily lives?


The Singapore Mental Health Film Festival serves to facilitate conversations and promote better understanding of burnout, all packaged into one fun experience. Can you craft experiences or tools to destigmatize mental health even more?


Check in with your own business - are you promoting a healthy culture among your employees and their families? Workplace wellness programs often don’t actually work, so how can you make sure yours do? Are there partnerships you need to strike? See how Ooca is partnering with Thai companies to offer mental health care to employees.


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Air pollution – the big enemy of wellbeing in Asia

The evidence is hard to miss, air pollution is more severe in Asia than anywhere in the world. It is radically impacting wellbeing, health, and even life. Air pollution kills 4.7 million people in Asia each year, two-thirds of the global total (WHO).

As awareness rises, air pollution will be THE defining wellbeing topic of 2020 (and into the next decade), just as ‘single-use’ was to sustainability in 2019. While local and national governments must work together to react, brands cannot sit on the sidelines. Professionals in every industry have a part to play in providing cleaner air and better protection for today’s citizens and the generations to come.

Why now?


Of the world’s 100 most polluted cities, 99 are in Asia (AirVisual & Greenpeace). Not just the pollution itself, the news is also suffocating – it’s everywhere! From Thailand’s badly hit tourism, to South Korea’s USD 5.9 billion budget proposal, to Jakarta’s citizens suing the government, the issue has rung alarm bells for brands, governments, and consumers.


At the same time, brands launched campaigns to make this intangible issue more visible, personal, and contextual. POND'S campaign in India and Jakarta are two good examples. Technology has also empowered consumers to even measure air pollution levels, like what Hope Bridge did in South Korea.


Air quality directly impacts happiness, health and productivity. Asian Games athletes in Jakarta collapsed due to smog and couldn’t even finish the race! All across Asia, people are frustrated and angry. South Korea calls the air pollution problem a ‘social disaster’. Consumers yearn for air pollution solutions to improve their wellbeing.


  • Hanwha Galleria — Chameleon-like mall changes color with air pollution

    Hanwha Galleria, a mall in South Korea, changes the colors on the outside of its building to inform pedestrians of current air pollution levels. If the city’s levels of fine dust are high, the exterior lighting and video displays are red; if the levels are low, the building will display shades of green. Unveiled in April 2019, the feature is part of the mall’s Right! Galleria campaign encouraging sustainable consumption. When fine dust levels are particularly bad, the mall will give away free face masks to visitors.

  • Shisheido — Anti-pollution skincare line rolls out across Asia

    Japan-based beauty company Shiseido is expanding availability of the Urban Damage Care anti-pollution range it co-created with health and beauty care retailer A.S. Watson (ASW). The range will roll out in China and across other Asian countries, it announced in April 2019. Created in 2018 using ASW customer feedback, the range first launched in Shiseido’s Thailand stores due to local consumer concerns over air pollution.

  • SBS Transit — Living gardens installed atop Singapore’s buses

    May 2019 saw ‘living roofs’ installed on 10 buses in Singapore as part of a three-month trial to assess whether the plants reduce the ambient temperature inside the buses. A collaboration between SBS Transit, the Temasek Foundation and the Singapore Green Building Council, the greenery is installed using Gaiamat, a locally developed soil-free material that is lighter and requires less maintenance than conventional soil.

  • SAMSUNG — Robotic air purifier detects dirtiest areas in the home

    South Korea-based Samsung debuted the Samsung Bot Air, a robotic air purifier, in February 2019 at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas. Using sensors that are located throughout the home, the bot can assess indoor air quality and move directly to the area most in need of purifying. The device uses lighting to show real-time improvement in air quality, red for bad quality and green for fresh air. Pricing and availability have yet to be announced.

  • Nasofilters — Startup develops air pollution filters for the nose

    India-based nanotechnology startup Nanoclean Global raised USD 600,000 in a pre-Series A funding round in February 2019 to develop its Nasofilters, air filters that attach to a person’s nostrils. Each respiratory filter is made from nanofibers more than 100 times smaller than regular thread and can be worn for up to 12 hours, protecting the wearer from pollution, bacteria, dust mites and pollen allergens. A pack of six retails for INR 80 (around USD 1).

  • R-PUR — French air pollution mask startup opening Hong Kong office

    France-based R-PUR, a startup that makes advanced air pollution masks, is opening an office in Hong Kong and will begin working with regional partners. The R-PUR Nano mask was featured at CES in January 2019 and the company hopes to target health-conscious consumers in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan. Consisting of two parts – a replaceable filter that blocks particles as small as 0.05 micrometers and a reusable fabric mask – an accompanying app lets users know when the filter should be replaced. The mask retails for EUR 195 (USD 220).

Your response?


It’s time to clear the air. Air pollution is a transboundary problem, so governments, NGOs, and brands need to come together for joint solutions instead of blaming each other and pushing the responsibility off their shoulders. Seoul recently hosted 35 Asian city representatives to discuss air pollution solutions. How can you be a part of the solution?


Air quality is currently the new luxury. But it will soon be the norm. Tourists will ask hotels if the rooms have an air purifier. Consumers will ask if your skincare range includes ingredients that combat pollutants. In your respective industry, how will you take the lead?


The solution goes beyond selling masks, beyond the health or tech industries. If you’re a retailer, Hanwha shows a solution can be embedded in your mall. If you’re a beauty brand, Shiseido shows a solution can be ingredients in your skincare. If you’re in transport, Singapore shows you can install green roofs! How can you contextualize your solutions to play on your strengths?

Your Prescription

Phew – you made it! Two major wellbeing challenges, two actionable opportunities, and a host of innovations from across the region – from Asia’s first ever burnout retreat in Thailand, to green buses in Singapore and sleep-based reward programs in Japan.

We hope that this report has inspired you to do something about one of these pressing wellbeing challenges, today! And if we’ve done our job properly, we’ve also sparked plenty of lightbulb moments as to HOW you can adapt and translate one of these trends in your own business.

You have the power to build a future where consumers enjoy wider access to healthcare, have healthier relationships with technology, and breathe cleaner air – a future of happier people! Now comes the real challenge: which trend can you take back to your team, to start acting on today?

Good Luck!!!

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About The Author:

Acacia Leroy

Acacia Leroy is Asia Head of Trends & Insights for TrendWatching, responsible for trend thinking and content from the region. A highly sought after speaker, in the past year she has delivered over 55 trend keynotes and innovation workshops across the globe. She has spoken to clients and at conferences including ING in Palo Alto, P&G in Tokyo, Skift Forum in Europe, and Amadeus in Monaco. Acacia's regional trend briefings and expert opinions have also been featured in various publications such as Campaign Asia, Inside Retail, Warc and Mumbrella.

Full bio


This Trend Briefing has many hands on it. A huge thanks to the team that pulled this together with such positivity and enthusiasm, especially: Vicky Kim and Nikki Ritmeijer (for design!), and also David Mattin, Maxwell Luthy, Vicki Loomes, Henry Mason, Alida Urban, Harry Metzger, Harvey Gomez, Jareth Ashbrook, Jonathan Herbst and Lisa Feierstein, Livia Fioretti, Nathania Christy and Rosie Toumanian. THANK YOU!