The Monetization of Wellness

Katie Peurrung

Companies are, with increasing frequency, using buzzwords like “wellness” and “lifestyle” as a branding tactic. They promise consumers zen and tranquility but with the caveat that you have to empty your wallet first. Gwyneth Paltrow’s own self-proclaimed lifestyle brand, goop, is the picture-perfect example of a company making wellness non-accessible. Some prices exceed hundreds of dollars even for small vials of skincare products. Want inner beauty? That starts at $35.

I first became acquainted with the skyrocketing price of wellness when I went shopping at a Whole Foods Market for the first time. I knew it had a reputation for being an upscale grocery store but was surprised to find the same products I’d bought elsewhere to be nearly twice the price. I ended up returning some of what I bought, and went home shocked to think that a run-of-the-mill grocery store had prices that could make eating unaffordable.

While I don’t have a problem with some stores charging more than others, I found it disheartening to see Whole Foods and similar companies flying some sort of health-superiority flag over other stores. Advertising healthy food and a balanced lifestyle is one thing, but these wellness retailers are encouraging the idea that if you want to stay healthy, you have to pay up. This dangerous monetization of the wellness industry extends much further than just the grocery store. The health care system as a whole suffers from unaffordable prices, which leads many to sacrifice their personal health.

This dangerous ideal is prevalent in more than just United States retail. Healthcare is also under constant fire with Republicans in Congress repeatedly attacking federally-funded services and plans, as well as laws regarding women’s health care. Health care reform seems more like a health care crisis with issues like the price of medicines skyrocketing, the current opioid crisis, above-average mother mortality rates and obesity-fueled health issues. I repeatedly see articles where a U.S. family was billed an ungodly amount for a simple service; and I can’t help but notice parallels with own experience. I am lucky enough to have insurance, but even with it, I spend thousands of dollars on doctor visits and medication every year. A 20 minute conversation with my psychiatrist runs a cool $300. When my insurance refused to cover my monthly medications, I had to shell out $120 or go without my daily medication for a few weeks until they could mail them to me (a package that never arrived). Still, I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to have to navigate the American healthcare system without insurance.

Ultimately, I am tired of the idea that to be healthy, you have to shell out. Health should not be a privilege, but a right. I am tired of the good choice being the expensive choice; I am tired of feeling bad for seeking the medical attention I need, just because it comes with a high bill at the end. I am infinitely lucky to be able to afford the healthcare I do and make healthy choices I feel confident about. Nevertheless, health should not be tied to economic class, or anything except a genuine desire to be healthy. These choices should be accessible to everyone, not just those who can pay the price tag. The people of the U.S. deserve access to a healthy life.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this appeared in the Monday, April 16 print edition. Email Katie Peurrung at [email protected].

 

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