Trend Alert: The anxiety economy

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest brands, products and services that are trending with 16-24s.

Remember the fidget spinner craze of 2017? At the time, we saw it as the latest in a long line of toy fads, like the yo-yo and Rubik’s cube. A year on, it’s being linked to a much larger trend: the growth in anxiety diagnoses and the economy that’s emerging around it.

The fidget spinner is one of several products that have become popular in the past few years, marketed as ways to relax and combat anxiety. Others include the weighted blanket, meditation apps and adult colouring books. There’s little scientific proof that these items are effective, but they reflect the rise in anxiety and related mental health issues, and demonstrate a growing consumer desire to try out any easily-available product that claims to help.

Anxiety and depression are being diagnosed more often among people of all ages, but the increase is most dramatic among teens and young adults. According to a 2016 report, 30% of students say they have “high anxiety,” 10% more than the general population. In the US, anxiety has become the most common form of mental illness.

A side effect of the increase in anxiety is that mental health treatment is put under more pressure, especially as these services are already facing funding cuts. The anxiety economy taps into a market that is growing, yet increasingly underserved by traditional solutions. The ethics might be debatable, but there’s no doubt we’ll see more trends and innovations capitalising on the anxiety epidemic in 2019 and beyond.

Want more stories like this? Subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates on the latest youth trends direct to your email inbox.