The health and wellness industry covers a vast range of sectors and markets that have grown exponentially in value and revenue. One of the most critical challenges in this industry is the ever-increasing information available to anyone seeking means to improve their health and navigate potential health solutions.
A lack of ethical boundaries and credibility has turned the wellness industry into a confounding and intimidating maze of misinformation that can distort scientific truths and medical expertise.
According to data from the Global Wellness Institute in its Global Wellness Economy Monitor 2021 report, the wellness economy accounted for roughly 5 percent of global economic output in 2020. The industry’s worth is projected to grow by almost 10 percent on average year over year, which could reach a total of $70 trillion by 2025. From corporate wellness to mental health, there is the opportunity for growth and fraudulent activity in every sector of the wellness industry.
What Defines Health Fraud?
According to the FDA’s definition of health fraud scams, they involve the advertisement or sale of products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure moderate to severe health conditions but are not scientifically proven safe and effective.
Deceptive marketing catchphrases such as “miracle cure,” “vaccine alternative,” “guaranteed results,” “secret ingredient,” and “scientific breakthrough” are red flags for health fraud per the FDA, but not all fraudulent products are labeled so obviously and identified so easily. Some fraudsters are more cunning with their marketing tactics and may try to sell consumers on a health trend ahead of the actual product.
The Role of Social Media in the Wellness Industry
Social media has become one of the most profitable marketing channels to target new consumers. Health trends can emerge out of thin air and become sensationalized on platforms such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The downside is that any health trend can go viral, even if it is false or misleading. Social media influencers without any credibility can lead followers into trying a new product or regimen, which can result in a wasted investment of money and time, disappointment, frustration, and even serious health risks and consequences.
Fasting, juicing, and cleansing have all had their share of the spotlight as miraculous remedies for rapid weight loss and other ambitious health goals. However, there is often very little (if any) scientific or medical evidence to support these theories. The truth is, these wellness trends are often driven by marketing campaigns to sell products such as juices, teas, and supplements that are not as miraculous as they are hyped to be.
COVID fraud has become an increasing issue on social media platforms, where scammers have advertised therapies and medications that can prevent, treat, or cure COVID. The Federal Trade Commission has intervened in 400 cases where companies have promoted false advertisements on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram since the start of the pandemic. The consequences of these false claims can be deadly for people who attempt to use these fraudulent and ineffective products in place of proper COVID treatments.
It is crucial to obtain information from authoritative and reliable sources, especially when a serious health issue is involved, but it can be difficult to know which sources are trustworthy. Some wellness scams can be so well-disguised and convincing that people believe whatever they claim and will buy into whatever they are selling.
Being wary of buzzing health trends and advice from wellness gurus or influencers on social media can help you avoid becoming prey to a health fraud scam or medical myth. It is always a good idea to cross-check information you find with credible sources online to verify whether what you’ve heard or read is based on facts or fiction.