Italians and the welfare economy

The crisis brought by the Covid-19 emergency has also impacted Italians’ purchases of wellness products and services. In fact, last year, its total value was 37 billion euros, which marks a decrease of 14% compared to the 43 billion recorded in 2018.

Moreover, the per capita expenditure of Italians for this kind of goods and services also decreased: if in 2018 approximately 1300 euros were spent per year, in 2020 it fell to 1200 euros per year, a 7% drop.

These are the main evidences that emerge from the Report on the Economy of Wellbeing 2020, the second edition of the survey carried out by BVA Doxa for Philips in June of this year to analyze lifestyles, habits and consumption trends of 4000 Italians on nutrition, physical activities, body care, stress management and sleep hygiene.

The distribution of expenses for the wellbeing sectoris in line with what was found in the first edition of the Report on the Economy of Wellbeing: 40% is made up of expenses for healthy eating (against 41% in 2018), while 23% is dedicated to body care[1] (vs 24% in 2018) and 19% to physical activity (vs 20% in 2018). However, the numbers in absolute terms reveal a substantially different picture: spending on healthy eating registers a contraction of 15% (14.9 billion euros compared to 17.5 billion in 2018), as well as that for body care (8.6 billion euros compared to 10.2 billion in 2018), while for physical activity the contraction was 17% (7.1 billion euros against 8.6 billion euros in 2018).

After the last months of isolation, in which Italians have been subjected to high levels of tension and uncertainty caused by the health emergency, the expenditure for items dedicated to stress management has instead remained substantially unchanged: 4.8 billion against 4.9 billion in 2018, equal to a 2% decline. Lastly, spending on sleep went against the trend since it rose to 2.1 billion euros, + 16% compared to 1.8 billion in 2018.

DESPITE THE PANDEMIC, ITALIANS FEEL GOOD – Although the percentage of those who positively assess their state of health – 81% of respondents – remained unchanged from the previous survey, the Covid-19 emergency had significant repercussions on prevention-oriented practices. As expected, the frequency with which we went to the family doctor in person and performed examinations and checks has decreased. These habits have been partially replaced by remote and online consultations, to which 56% of Italians have made use of family doctors, while 35% have turned to specialists.

ITALIANS SPEND LESS TO EAT HEALTHY, BUT GREEN PURCHASES INCREASE – The per capita expenditure on healthy eating fell by 15% compared to the first survey, from € 513 in 2018 to € 437 this year. However, a propensity for green purchases is emerging, with almost 40% of people declaring that they purchase environmentally friendly brands and products on a regular basis. About 35% of the products we put in our carts are “sustainable”, while almost 4 out of 10 Italians show a good propensity to spend more in order to consume eco-sustainable products. Attention to the environment is also reflected in the choice of small appliances: also in this case, 40% of Italians are willing to spend more on an eco-friendly product, with peaks of 51% among young people 18-24 y/o.

BODY CARE AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: THE HEALTH EMERGENCY SLOWS THE SECTORS DOWN – The body care sector is among the ones that have suffered the hardest because of the coronavirus, registering a drop in overall spending of 1.6 billion euros (-15% compared to the previous survey). Beauty centers alone lost 1.2 billion euros compared to 2018, while a more contained decrease (-5%) involved spending on personal care devices, which in 2020 reached 1.1 billion euros. Apart from the losses, a greater attention towards the green emerges in this area as well.

The Covid-19 emergency then also blocked the expansion of sporting practices and caused a drop in spending by Italians in this sector equal to 1.5 billion euros (-17%). Gyms and swimming pools (-850 million euros) and the clothing and sports equipment sector (-300 million euros) are suffering above all, while spending on technological devices for sport remains substantially unchanged, always close to 900 million euros. The use of digital media such as apps (43% current vs 31% in 2018) and the use of personal trainers, increased to 20% compared to 10% in the last survey, also thanks to remote lessons, to which recourse 10% of respondents.

THE CRISIS FREEZES THE EXPENSES TO FIGHT STRESS AND ANXIETY – For over 50% of Italians, the coronavirus crisis brought more feelings of anxiety and stress, but spending in this sector has remained substantially unchanged. If on one hand quarantine inevitably produced a decrease in expenditure for physical participation in courses, on the other there is an increase in the use of specialists, to whom 6 million Italians have turned (against 4.7 in 2018), for an expense that has grown to over 900 million euros from around 750 million euros in 2018 (+ 20%).

SPENDING MORE TO SLEEP BETTER – Covid-19 anxiety and stress have also had negative repercussions on sleep quality. The percentage of those who complain about sleeping difficulties jumped from 47% in 2018 to 59% recorded in the last survey. Italians thus found themselves spending 300 million euros more than in 2018 to address the situation, and they did so, in particular, using remedies such as herbal teas, supplements and herbal products (+200 million euros compared to 2018) and by consulting specialists, for an increased cost of almost 100 million euros.


[1] The figure does not include the expense for the purchase of cosmetic products

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