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Got Time for Wellness?

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This week, we at McCann Truth Central released our latest study, 'The Truth About Wellness.' The study consists of a survey of 7,000 respondents in the US, UK, Brazil, China, Japan, South Africa and Turkey, supplemented qualitatively by consumer workshops and expert interviews in Peru, Thailand, India, Mexico, and Brazil.

The study focuses on the shape of wellness at a time when technological innovations are expanding opportunities for brands and companies to pioneer solutions in what we are referring to as the "Age of Wellness." Unsurprisingly, at this time of rapid technological change there is significant concern and contradictions about technology's human impact.

Some 54% of our global respondents believe technology will ultimately make us better, although 46% think it will only make us sicker. This split in popular opinion intimates at the view that as technology becomes more sophisticated and ubiquitous, we may lose something fundamental to our humanity, be that our privacy, our ability to have real conversations, or even the power of touch.

The one component of our humanity that seems to remain undiminished is the hold that time has over each of us, a fact that many of us seem well prepared to challenge. Indeed, when asked what the biggest benefit associated with emergent technologies has been, the most popular response was that it saves users time.

This coincides with our respondents' claim that the single-greatest barrier to achieving an optimal state of wellness is the lack of time, ranked as one of the top two barriers in all countries except China. Nevertheless, globally, not having enough time is provided as the single biggest reason for not exercising (chosen by 37% in the survey) and 50% of our respondents agree that their food choices are made based upon convenience.

Indeed, many respondents welcome a future where technology and science fundamentally transform our relationship with time in extraordinary ways: when asked to choose from a wish list of technological and scientific innovations, 32% would remain the same age forever, 26% would erase unpleasant memories, and 10% would eliminate the need for sleep.

And participants are already doing their best to mitigate the debilitating effects of time on the mind. 47% of our British respondents regularly play brain games such as Words with Friends or Tetris to thwart off the threat of diseases like Alzheimer's and early onset senility.

When we invited participants in a London co-creation workshop to invent an app, they offered us the I-Faff app. The I-Faff app would be designed as a type of total life well-being counselor. The app is envisioned to provide a dynamic and active coaching mechanism that assists the user in prioritizing tasks, setting goals, and provides daily motivations and utilizes push notifications to keep the user on task.

And although the I-Faff has yet to be developed, the practice of 'time-banking' certainly has. Nic Marks, founder of the Centre for Well-Being at the New Economics Foundation, explained time-banking succinctly as "the exchange of time for a service." Whether your contribution to the time-bank is spent walking a dog or running fitness sessions for the elderly, exchange with the bank contributes to a more well society by retooling the notion that time equals wellness, rather than money.

Although wellness is increasingly seen as a human right, many of us still think of wellness as a practice secondary to everyday life. It is understood as a place one goes to, or a "time away from things." Pioneering brands and companies in the Age of Wellness would do well to attend to the serious time concerns of consumers, while also finding the means to connect us with wellness in the everyday.