A key finding from a recent General Wellness Survey (GWS)* conducted by The Art of Healing during 2020 found that Australian’s are wanting more credible health information. Further, and perhaps driven by the unexpected and unprecedented global pandemic, more than half of the survey respondents said their preference was for scientifically informed information (55%) or information directly from medical practitioners and experts (51%). A far smaller number (14%) said they would turn to ‘Dr Google’.

Whilst it is encouraging to see that a majority of survey respondents would not rely on content taken randomly from the internet, it can sometimes be very difficult to ascertain what is true and what is not. Certainly, more than 50% of people said it was very important for them to know where content was coming from.

There is a lot of information circulated online and shared through social media platforms that is questionable, but how do you truly know? “Sometimes it is very difficult,” says Cate Mercer, Editor and Publisher of The Art of Healing, a magazine that has been curating and distributing health information for almost 20 years. “The more diligent researcher and careful consumer will take the time to check the validity of the website, and look for more than one source to validate claims,” she says.

This was certainly reflected in the GWS results, with 75% of people saying they would research an organisation and their partners. 

It’s also important to remember that all content has been written or curated by someone, so there is always going to be a bias. “We tend to forget this,” says Cate. “I still find this myself – when reading a book for example. It’s so easy to be influenced by it. This is why it’s so important to always do further research.” 

Sifting through information, press releases and social media posts is all in a day’s work for Cate. “While there have always been uneducated and unscrupulous individuals peddling unproven health information, treatments and cures, it’s the rise of the internet and our prolific use of social media – in combination with the demands of a truly global health crisis – that has brought a lot more of this information into the mainstream so more people are seeing it and reading it.” 

With so many uninformed, vulnerable and often desperate people living in fear and uncertainty, the World Health Organisation (WHO) now has an entire page on their website dedicated to myth-busting and reporting misinformation, in a bid to prevent people from following any unconfirmed and dangerous health advice. 

Reflecting on the GWS results and the past two decades Cate says, “It’s interesting to look back and see how much people have changed. There really has been a huge shift in consciousness. The results of this survey have confirmed how much more aware we have become, and the importance of being informed and becoming empowered as we move ahead into the future. People seem more prepared to question health claims and choose substantiated and safe options that are right for them as a result of COVID,” says Cate.

This is all good news for the health and wellness industry and a good indicator of what’s to come. “Although many people are still in the COVID prevention mentality, we are also hearing about spas and healthcare practitioners having more business than they did pre-COVID,” Cate continues. 

On a scale of 1-10, a massive 93% of survey respondents rated their health and wellness a 5 or above with over three-quarters telling us they have taken to walking and spending time out in nature to manage their mental health during COVID.

It’s comes as no surprise that people who have been getting outdoors are coping better than expected. A 2014 study from Stanford University showed that people who walked regularly – anywhere from 5-16 minutes a day – displayed more ‘divergent thinking’, a state that promotes more spontaneous, free-flowing, “non-linear” thinking, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent, cognitive fashion. 

In addition to walking, over half of GWS respondents said they turned to physical exercise and movement, just under 50% have been paying more attention to what they eat and drink, and more than 43% have used meditation to deal with these difficult and uncertain times.  

Recognising that there’s a lot of positive news to share in the health sector, Cate recently stepped into a new presenter role for a community radio program called Go Well. “It’s been great interviewing some of the people I’ve met over the years, who are experts in their fields. We have so many amazing practitioners in Australia, many of whom are working away with little acknowledgement so it’s a privilege to bring them out into the public space. Plus, I think people are thirsty for this sort of information now, so it’s really working.”

Further results from the GWS showed that 71% of respondents would prefer to receive health information in a print format such as books or magazines, 45% of respondents said they liked to get information from attending webinars, and 40% from listening to podcasts.

When asked about the chronic health ailments and diseases they’re facing, GWS respondents confirmed the top five common conditions currently being experienced as;

  • mental health-related (44%)
  • arthritis (40%) 
  • chronic pain (34%)
  • obesity (26%)
  • heart conditions (24%)

*The General Wellness Survey was conducted by The Art of Healing and had 164 people participate, with fifty-six percent working in healthcare and 32% being owners of clinics. The majority were female, and over 86% were aged 35 and above. More than 63% said they were married or in a domestic relationship, and 32.52% had kids.