Are the Terms ‘Wellness’ and ‘Wellbeing’ Merely Buzzwords?

Global Wellness Day brings to light the age-old question: “How can I live a healthier and better life?”. This day of celebration aims to direct thoughts of both individuals and society towards “living well” not just for today, or in June, but all year round. It is important to first understand what we mean when we use terms like wellness and wellbeing.

Are Wellness and Wellbeing Merely Buzzwords?

Have you ever wondered about the true essence of wellness and wellbeing? Perhaps you find yourself pondering the distinction between the two. In recent years, we have seen these terms in the workplace, on social media, in movies and TV shows. When used in the context of a workplace, it might refer to a programme designed to help improve your health, which we have to acknowledge is a great thing. It wasn’t always the case that the terms wellness and wellbeing were recognised, let alone actively being addressed in and out of the workplace.

Firstly, let’s define what we mean by wellness and wellbeing. According to The World Health Organisation, “Wellness is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”1. Wellness also refers to the healthy choices and healthy behaviours in your everyday life. WHO incorporates the term "wellbeing" into their definition of wellness so what exactly does that entail? Wellbeing is a state of being healthy, happy and successful. While good health certainly contributes to overall happiness or wellbeing, it is not the sole determinant. Wellbeing encompasses the entirety of an individual's being. There is a connection between wellness and wellbeing. Wellness is a set of behaviours, while wellbeing is a state of mind. Wellness influences wellbeing and vice versa.

We are seeing more focus on wellness and wellbeing in the last few years. COVID-19 exacerbated social isolation, fear, anxiety, financial struggles, mental stress, all resulting in a negative impact to our overall wellness. A United Nations (UN) 2020 report showed a high prevalence of mental distress in the Asia-Pacific region. Nearly 50% of individuals surveyed in Mainland China, Philippines and Pakistan reported experiencing mental distress caused by the global pandemic2. This isn’t the first time we have seen the aftermath of traumatic events. Studies on natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and flood show high levels of mental stress among the victims.3 This is not surprising given the combination of natural disasters and the global pandemic has taken a massive toll on people’s wellness and wellbeing.

These events have brought the spotlight on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) developed in 2015. SDG 3 highlights that countries should “ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for everybody, at all ages.” This shows that both wellbeing and wellness are central to sustained development. By investing and supporting initiatives that promote wellbeing for all, we will see a greater participation in wellness programmes and subsequently improve the health and wellbeing for all.

It is also important to acknowledge that wellness plays a big part in the global and regional economy. Studies in 2018 have shown that wellness-related industries account for about 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP), equivalent to US$4.5 trillion. In Asian countries, this figure rose to 11% of their GDP, with an annual growth rate projected at around 10% at the time of the study 4. Wellness tourism, which involves travel aimed at improving personal wellbeing, has been a key driver of rapid tourism growth in Asia. In 2017 alone, this sector employed 3.74 million people in India, 1.78 million in Mainland China, and 530,000 in Thailand 5. Although the global pandemic dealt a severe blow to the tourism industry, the significance of wellness in promoting inclusive growth remains unchanged. It not only contributes to employment but also fosters the development of micro and small enterprises.

While wellness and wellbeing may sometimes be dismissed as mere buzzwords, their meaning and impact extend far beyond an individual's health and happiness. In short, wellness will not only improve our physical and mental health but can also act as a driver for growth. It is vital for APAC’s post-pandemic recovery.

About the Author: Chris Mack, Programme Manager, Employee Wellbeing



  1. What is GWD? – Global Wellness Day
  2. GWD Founder – Global Wellness Day
  3. What is Wellness? – Global Wellness Day
  4. Wellness as the Key to Post-COVID-19 Recovery in Asia - Yasuyuki Sawada | Asian Development Bank (
  5. COVID-19 Impact on Mental Health in APAC · Profile Search & Selection (