Yoga, mindfulness, self-care: Many millennials are almost obsessed with optimizing their own well-being. This is one of the reasons why digital health and wellness applications such as meditation and “mindfulness” apps have been booming since yesterday. The corona pandemic has reinforced this effect again: App downloads in the field of mental health skyrocketed during the corona crisis. In particular, apps like Headspace, Calm or 7 Mind, which focus on meditation and sleep aids, are seeing an above-average increase in user numbers. In the English-speaking world, the top 10 mental health apps had 10 million downloads in April alone.
The UK based application Headspace is number two in the world for meditation apps. The app includes several audio and video courses that can be used to learn the art of meditation. Globally, Headspace already has over two million paying subscribers and over 30 million users in 190 countries, but most of them in the United States. During the corona pandemic, the number of app downloads doubled in Germany alone, reports Renate Nyborg, Europe boss for Headspace, in an interview with NewsABC.net.
The increased demand for mental health and stress support services is no coincidence. During the shutdown, many companies had to send their employees to work from home – a major change for both employers and employees, which was not without consequences for many. According to a survey conducted by Headspace of 2,500 workers in the US and UK, 40 percent of employees surveyed believe that they have anxiety and depression when they are just undiagnosed. At times, the British company offered some content free of charge.
Demand from companies for prevention offers rose by 500 percent during the crisis
More and more companies are therefore trying to offer their employees a prevention program against stress and burnout through meditation apps such as Headspace. “We are currently seeing phenomenal growth in corporate banking,” says Nyborg. Business demand has risen by 500 percent since mid-March. Headspace now has 400 corporate customers in Europe – including Tesco, Great Britain’s largest supermarket chain as well as the German online fashion retailer Zalando, Michelin and the Dax newcomer Delivery Hero.
Germany is the largest market for Headspace after the large English-speaking countries. “We see a market with very high potential in Germany, because here we currently have the largest customer base outside the English-speaking markets with several hundred thousand paying members,” says Renate Nyborg. That is why Headspace started the first local offer in German. Before that, the service was everywhere, but only available in English. Europe as a whole is currently the most important growth market.
German customers mainly use the service to be able to concentrate better. “As a result of the pandemic in particular, we are seeing that many people in the home office have problems concentrating,” says Nyborg. Headspace recently started offering the new “Focus” feature. This includes special meditation programs for better concentration as well as various curated playlists with “focus music” that can be heard, for example, while working. The music was chosen by John Legend – the company recently hired the US singer as its new chief music officer. “Since the introduction of the Focus feature in August, our members in Germany have made up the largest proportion of users of the new function in Europe,” says Nyborg.
Mental health will be discussed more openly for the first time in 2020
2020 will be the year mental health first became a talking point of the masses, said Nyborg. “I don’t think employees would have said a year ago that their employer is also responsible for their mental health.”
However, due to the constantly increasing demand, the competition is not exactly small. There are now over 2,000 meditation apps. In the past year alone, the revenues of the top 10 meditation applications rose to 195 million dollars, according to analyzes by the app analysis company Sensor Tower. The biggest competitor, Calm and Headspace, have been consistently in first and second place for years, with estimated gross sales of 92 million and 56 million US dollars respectively in 2019. In Germany, the German-language app 7Mind is the biggest competitor, as it is already used by some health insurance companies can be billed. This is currently not possible with Headspace.
Headspace wants to set itself apart from the other competitors through its investments in clinical research, says Nyborg. According to our own studies, Headspace improved users’ ability to concentrate by 14 percent and reduced absenteeism by 22 percent.
Meditate: “Not just for Bill Gates”
“There is often still the prejudice that meditation is only for successful people like Bill Gates – who, by the way, really uses headspace. Almost everyone suffers from stress, anxiety and insomnia, ”says Nyborg. She therefore sees long-term potential for mental health apps totaling 150 billion euros (five percent of the German gross domestic product) on the German market alone. This sum would be the impact that psychological complaints have on the German economy every year.
According to Nyborg, the plan for 2021 is to continue investing in the expansion in the German market and to work with local health insurance companies and European e-health companies.
Similar to other subscription and streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, Headspace is also working on producing its own content, so-called “originals” with local speakers and musicians. This should be a smart step, because Headspace must continue to lure users to their platform with content that is only available there. For Netflix, Spotify, Amazon and Co., this strategy has so far worked very well.