The idea of a nexus between physical health and mental wellbeing was already present in Ancient Greece, with Plato’s emphasis on harmony between body and soul. It’s difficult, however, to translate this to the current age where climate change, pandemics, wars, and a worsening cost-of-living crisis are becoming the new normal. This leads us to forget and neglect happiness and mental wellbeing, two fundamentals of life which are more important now than ever before because of the challenging times we find ourselves in as a society. To better understand the levers that make us happy in modern life, Herbalife commissioned a study with IPSOS.
Key findings: health and happiness
The report, spanning nine European countries and covering 1,000 consumers in each one, investigates the breakdown of what makes for a happy and healthy life, and their symbiotic relationship. The findings show that 84% who consider themselves happy, also perceive themselves as healthy. According to the study, regular exercise, a balanced diet, sleep and mental health are the keys to ensuring a healthy life, which in turn correlates positively with levels of happiness. Therefore, we need to start looking at our wellbeing in a holistic, layered manner. Mental health, for instance, has many underlying elements, such as financial independence, time spent with family and friends, or free time. Similarly, finding the right and tailored diet is essential for maintaining health and happiness. These elements together form our emotional and physical wellbeing.
“The rise of meal replacement shakes, for example, is a clear sign that people are looking for tailored nutrition in an easy format that complements their hectic lifestyles. And they want it tailored to their individual needs” - Dr. Julian Alvarez Garcia, M.D., Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board (NAB) Member
A fast-paced life
The digital era is positive for productivity, ease of life and remote working. However, it has also brought about its own challenges in terms of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, fostering interpersonal relationships and a balanced dietary intake. In order to function in this fast-paced world, people need to be able to take care of their health efficiently and effortlessly. One way to ensure that is through tailored, convenient nutrition, according to Dr. Julian Alvarez Garcia, M.D., a specialist in sports medicine and nutrition and a Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board (NAB) Member:
“With our lives becoming busier and work hours ever extending, we’re all looking for new ways to get the nutrition we need. The rise of meal replacement shakes, for example, is a clear sign that people are looking for tailored nutrition in an easy format that complements their hectic lifestyles. And they want it tailored to their individual needs.”
Likewise, it is equally important to not neglect our relationships. With the end of COVID-19, we see a resurgence of social connections. Relationships are a cornerstone of a holistically healthy life, ensuring a feeling of emotional support. Combining this with physical exercise can offer multiple benefits, such as inspiration, motivation, or feelings of belonging. This is increasingly recognised, with 44% of study respondents stating that they use their gym membership, because of its group setting.
In defence of mental health
Outbursts of anxiety and stress, from an evolutionary point of view, can be useful, ensuring survival through the “fight or flight” response. The picture changes, however, once that stress becomes chronic. Constantly raised anxiety levels can lead to a weakened immune system, impair cognitive function and aggravate non-communicable diseases including diabetes, obesity or heart disease. This is the case for many today, with studies suggesting almost half of the European population experienced psychosocial problems in 2022-2023. The detrimental effect of COVID-19 on mental health is compounded by the rapid news cycle, continuous connectivity to our work, and an escalating climate and geopolitical situation.
This is why it’s so important to take special care of our health and support our mental wellbeing. One way is through work-life balance, physical activity, and sleep hygiene. Another is through how we feed ourselves. Maintaining a balanced and nutrient-rich diet, including using food supplements to fill any gaps, should not be underestimated. While 66% of report respondents use food supplements for general health, already 43% do so for “mind and mood”.
“Whilst a balanced diet is essential for keeping our bodies and minds healthy and happy, supplements play an important role in filling the gaps we’re not getting from our diets in a quick and convenient way” – Dr. Jacques Manic, M.D., sports traumatology specialist and a Herbalife NAB Member
What policymakers can do
For people to be happy and healthy, actions on an individual level should be reinforced by policy initiatives. There are already some good initiatives at EU level. The European Parliament has, for example, created a report in support of mental health, or for employees to have the right to disconnect after working hours. At a European Commission level, a comprehensive approach to mental health has been adopted with over 1 billion Euros in funding and 20 flagship initiatives. A concrete example of the Commission’s efforts is the HealthyLifestyle4All initiative, spanning 2021-2023, aiming to mobilise actors to promote physical activity, proper nutrition, and mental health. The Herbalife Nutrition Foundation has joined this initiative and provided valuable material on what constitutes a healthy lifestyle to children and adolescents.
Nevertheless, more needs to be done, and with the European elections and a new Parliament and Commission just around the corner, there will be new opportunities to bring the focus on ensuring that European citizens stay healthy and happy.
The Herbalife Health and Happiness Report can be found here.