As we close out 2021, it’s empowering to look back and recognize just how far we’ve come. We’ve gotten pretty good at quickly adapting to what wellness looks like amid an ever-changing health landscape, and that's not nothing. In between exercising more at home and keeping up with talk therapy, we embraced sex positivity, said no more often and let go of mom guilt. We checked in on our kids' mental health and worked at our own. We reprioritized what’s most important.
And as the calendar flips to the new year, we’re looking forward to taking personal health to the next level, starting with what’s on our plates and in our homes, but also with normalizing all lived experiences (hello, menopause and fertility struggles). We're setting our intentions to make this year exactly what we want it to be. With apologies to Taylor Swift, I suppose you could say we’re feeling ’22? Yep.
1. Mushrooms are having a moment
Just as CBD was everywhere in 2020 and 2021, mushrooms are about to step into the sun. Psychedelics, adaptogens and culinary fungi are just now embarking on their reign as wellness darlings, and with good reason: More and more research (plus a book and a Netflix documentary) is stacking up in support of their myriad benefits.
Psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical compound in psychedelic mushrooms, is now being studied for its role in treating depression and other mental health conditions. One study out of Johns Hopkins Medical Center on 24 participants found that using psilocybin in two 5-hour doses resulted in a more than 71% reduction in symptoms of major depression at a 1-month follow-up in 67% of participants. Early research is promising, though larger trials are needed.
2. Telehealth is the new norm
If nothing else, the pandemic changed the landscape of healthcare, making access to virtual health services much easier. In 2022, we’re expecting to see an even greater rise in virtual healthcare platforms, especially ones focused on treating specific conditions, such as Allara Health, which is centered on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or Choix, which is focused on abortion care.
Many insurance plans now fully cover the cost of virtual visits—and it’s worth checking to see if yours does. By removing barriers such as time spent commuting to the doctor’s office and long wait times in the clinic plus offering expanded hours, virtual platforms allow you to set up a doctor’s appointment around your schedule like never before. We hope this will help more moms prioritize their own health care in the coming year.
3. Indoor air quality rises to the top
When IKEA first announced its new line of in-furniture air filters launching this fall, we took notice. More and more companies are creating design-forward air purifiers that can fit seamlessly into your living room where they can operate while blending in. With the rise of climate-change-fueled forest fires, airborne viruses (you know the one) and the simple fact that we’re all spending more minutes in our homes than ever, being conscious of what we’re breathing in every second matters.
We’ll also see a rise in apps and trackers in ’22, like the recently launched Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor, that allow you to get a reading and overall score of your in-home air quality. These trackers also give recommendations for making improvements to promote better air quality and have the ability to sync with other in-home smart devices, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
4. Menopause goes mainstream
On average, as many as 2.2 million U.S. women hit menopause each year, making relief and support for this life phase an opportunity for big business over the next few years (to put it mildly).
Still, menopause support is primed for reinvention: There’s a significant stigma and lack of information around perimenopause and menopause that, even today, makes it difficult for many women to know what they’re dealing with or when they’re actually going through it.
Menopause can last 10 years and may trigger as many as 34 different symptoms, which can range from, yes, hot flashes, but also brain fog, insomnia and vertigo. As many as 16% of women are experiencing menopause symptoms without having been diagnosed by their doctor—suffering without support.
Thanks to telehealth platforms like Elektra Health and menopause wellness brands Bonafide, Embr Labs and State Of, in 2022, more women entering this phase will be able to get the support—and treatment—they deserve.
5. Male fertility enters the chat
Given the recent worrying reports of declining sperm counts across generations, the role of males in couples’ fertility challenges is now fully in the spotlight. Thanks to a lack of awareness and plenty of stigmatization around male infertility, women have been shouldering most of the blame for fertility issues for decades.
But the truth is, in 35% of couples experiencing infertility, male factors are identified as a contributing cause alongside female factors. In 8% of cases, a male factor is the only identifiable cause. Both partners need to be assessed equally for issues when trying to conceive–not just the partner with a uterus.
Semen quality can also be considered a biomarker for overall male health, similar to how a woman’s menstrual cycle can be considered the fifth vital sign. In a study of 9,387 men, those with a medical diagnosis unrelated to fertility also had lower sperm quality, highlighting a relationship between medical conditions and semen production. Paying attention to sperm health is important but often overlooked.
Two new products aim to help make information around sperm health and semen collection methods more accessible. ProteX, released this year from Reproductive Solutions, is the first FDA-listed product available for at-home semen collection for use in fertility treatments like IVF. And Legacy, a home semen analysis kit, can measure everything from motility to morphology for a complete picture of sperm quality. By reducing the need for in-clinic semen collection or doctor's appointments, assessing male fertility challenges is more convenient than ever.