• Georgia Bates

Can I Buy Happiness? Why Commodifying Well-Being Is a Problem


© Illustration by Georgia Bates


"Share Your Story" submitted by Georgia Bates, 20 years old, UK


Commodifying a happy and healthy life may seem absurd however the desirable ways in which this is advertised make us active consumers of the industry. After all, can money buy you happiness?

According to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness industry has grown to $4 trillion including not only personal care and beauty but also the spiritual self-care industry. As an industry, it only continues to grow however this may skew the intentions of wellness providers from wanting to enable platforms to help people, to wanting to exploit the concept of wellness for financial gain. The rise in wellness can be attributed to the nature of the society we live in. As a human race, we are arguably at a crisis point regarding health and mental illness and the wellbeing industry represents the beacon of hope and people are embracing it.

Wellness as a concept is extremely desirable. The idea that we can transform our lives with a few alterations and be provided with complete happiness is alluring and can provide an overt sense of hope for those suffering from mental illness. Dubiously however it is difficult to recognise whether wellness industry leaders are commodifying this sense of happiness with pure or oblique intentions. In the technological revolution in which we currently reside, there has been a surge in the use of apps for lifestyle and wellness, with many proving to be significantly helpful for those suffering. Now, wellness apps are so popularised, whether that be for mood tracking, de-addiction, or daily yoga, there is ultimately an app for everything. Apps such as calm and headspace have led the industry for years, both of which require subscriptions to use the apps to their full capacity. These apps are often branded as cheaper alternatives to mindful classes and often therapy yet in a way tend to target vulnerable populations. With promises of ‘reducing anxiety and stress', ‘improving sleep quality', and ‘self-improvement’ it is hard to overlook the allure of such promises.

Studies have shown that these apps have proven helpful. Psychiatrist Dr. Dayal Mirchandani recognised that these apps ‘provide a temporary respite to people who cannot physically visit a doctor’ and this is undoubtedly a positive aspect, particularly for those who simply cannot afford to seek therapy. Nonetheless, the use of such apps should be used in caution, and it is important to recognise the use of apps in replacement for therapy may be deemed problematic as they do not offer an adequate alternative to a face-to-face session with a mental health professional. Furthermore, there is a notion that the growth of the wellness industry is capitalising on legitimate mental illnesses and are offering quick fixes in return for money. There are nuances to mental health that require one on one treatment as opposed to a generalised app that tackles the broader mental health symptoms, without tackling the core. This can further question whether our phones cannot provide a good enough substitute for therapy and this needs to be recognised.

In some ways, the wellness industry promotes the conception that money can provide you with a sense of happiness. The majority of ‘wellness’ merchandise requires some sort of payment and in this regard, skews the notion of wellness. Wellness is about being in good health and actively pursuing one's goals and as a concept, should not be related to money in any facet. There is no doubt of the benefits that much of the wellbeing industry ‘sells’, yet exploiting vulnerable audiences for financial benefit is highly problematic and needs to be further acknowledged.