The future is female

Wellness and Well-Being across Cultures

From online and print advertisements to blogs and social media platforms dedicated entirely to the subjects, wellness, mindfulness, well-being, and the like have become a new societal focus and a global industry. These products, services, and ideas have emerged from growing aspirations for overall health—physical, mental, and emotional.

Curious about the new industry, the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, examined the quest for balance by researching women’s health and well-being. This study sought to define and better understand women’s health and well-being from a global perspective, specifically surveying women and public officials in France, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, and India. It explored how the definitions and practices related to women’s well-being differ depending on culture and life circumstance.

While definitive measures of well-being exist—such as access to basic necessities—this research found that both definitions and practices of well-being could change across cultures and between different living situations. Factors including income and immediate circumstances affected both the definition and perception of well-being in each global market.

  A woman holding an apple   A woman holding an apple

For example, women with greater financial security value education and independence more, while women in developing countries value access to food and security—due to their perception of immediate circumstances.

This insight underscores the highly subjective nature of well-being globally. These different expectations cause women to feel better or worse about their personal situations than their peers, regardless of objective measures.

The study also identified that actions of public officials do not always actively address the core concerns of their women constituents. When defining well-being, respondents to this survey prioritized feeling healthy and physically fit (64%) and a sense of accomplishment (45%). Officials, while also understanding that feeling healthy and physically fit is important (74%), saw emotional security and stability (51%) and feeling physically secure (50%) as highly important factors.

Perhaps due to this misalignment, only 34% of female consumers participate in well-being programs in their local communities.

   A woman in a high power position    A woman in a high power position

Belén Garijo, Member of the Executive Board and CEO Healthcare

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany has proven to be inherently curious about enabling growth and development of women in the workplace, highlighting the social, economic, and other benefits of gender equality and leading to the sponsorship of this study.

While investing in the well-being of women inside and outside of the company is an important goal, a speaker of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, explains what the company hopes to come from the initiative:  “Interestingly, women across the world are often the caretakers of the health and well-being of their own families; and they educate their family members on this topic. Women also represent the majority of professionals in health care occupations, so they have broadest impact on improving health and well-being in our societies. However, there are significant barriers to accessing health and well-being services, which can have far-reaching consequences for women, for example on their productivity and quality of life. This is what our debate is aiming to address, hoping that stakeholders across the globe start looking for better integrated approaches and sustainable solutions.”

In February 2016, the company hosted a debate in Darmstadt; Germany, featuring experts, stakeholders, government organizations, and academics. Notable participants, including Belén Garijo, CEO of the healthcare business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver, and Sanghita Bhattacharyya, Senior Public Health Specialist at the Public Health Foundation of India, engaged in a conversation about the findings, women’s concerns, and possible solutions.

By jumpstarting this global discussion, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is working to spark a global conversation that could translate into significant, positive change.

Read more about the report and debate in M-The Explorer Magazine.

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