MRS Healthy Living Conference Roundup
Despite Storm Doris bringing wires down onto the tracks at St Albans we made it into London for the MRS Healthy Living Conference 2017. The day was filled with insightful presentations ranging from consumer attitudes on healthy eating, cancer prevention and exercise to fitness apps, packaging design and wide ranging health perceptions. Our key takeaway from the day was the rate at which technology is changing the knowledge and behaviours of consumers worldwide, an influence which is only set to increase. We’ve put together a roundup of the main topics below.
The growth of social media and new technology, such as smart wearables and fitness apps, are creating consumers who are more health conscious than ever before. Some demographics, usually younger generations, are really on-board with new technology and social media and use them to organise and motivate their health regimes. Those who are used to online dating, gambling and using apps like Uber are more likely to use smart fitness devices. For those really immersed in their health journey, the healthy image they create online is used as a social currency they want to retain and grow.
However, other consumer segments, who are less familiar with technology, are more suspicious of fitness technology and unwilling to share their personal data – which may not be an irrational concern. One prediction made was that, in the future, insurance companies may use fitness data or social media to update our health policies: “Mr Jones, we see from your Facebook pictures you had a cigarette last week, so we’re increasing your policy fee.” As some car insurance policies can already be influenced by submitting individual driving data it may not be such a far leap!
When it comes to healthy eating it seems everyone has a different opinion. Mixed messages from health gurus on social media, the government, the media and product packaging have ended up confusing a lot of consumers. Whilst some are clear they know how to distinguish what’s actually healthy and what just seems healthy, others are not so savvy. One consumer quoted was particularly misled by packaging believing that because her pizza said it was ‘stone-baked’ it was healthy! We often hear that many people are confused by the difference between ‘low fat’ and ‘reduced fat’ so perhaps this isn’t surprising.
The uptake of smart technology for tracking fitness unsurprisingly varies from country to country. Whilst the majority of higher-usage countries state their reason for using health tracking devices as being to monitor and improve their exercise levels, some also cite a strong interest in keeping a record of their own health data. In both scenarios the fitness technology is empowering the consumer to take charge of their own healthcare. As technology develops, and products like wearables become more affordable to larger markets, this is set to increase.
While new fitness technology and healthy eating apps allow consumers to manage their health and wellbeing, there are some drawbacks. During a panel debate at the conference, it was argued that the use of technology has now gone too far. Some consumers have become obsessed with recording all their exercise and projecting a healthy image on social media, all of which has been linked to a rise in depression and eating disorders.
The self-governing image people project and report of themselves can also be a problem for insight teams, especially if social media is a key resource, as they may not get the whole truth from respondents – only the part they want everyone to know about. This problem can arise with both health conscious people and those who are just starting out on their health journey.
On the other hand, the panel gave us inspiring real-life examples where technology has helped transform people’s health and fitness. By monitoring their exercise and diet, with new technology, consumers are enabled to take charge of their health and take satisfaction from seeing their fitness statistics improving or their weight decrease through a diet and exercise regime.
The future of healthcare research
Whatever your personal take on smart technology, it’s definitely here to stay and it is having varying degrees of impact on the way consumers think about the health messages they get from the government, media and product packaging. From the MRS Healthy Living Conference it was clear, when conducting market research for healthcare and pharmaceutical purposes, strong segmentation of each market will give the most accurate results.
As a translation agency specialising in market research translations we found the event very interesting and informative, especially the statistics on the range of smart tech adoption for different countries. If you’d like to discuss our specialist services for medical market research please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.