BEIJING, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) — Afraid of losing her hair, a 19-year-old university student called Yali — not her real name — spent 2,400 yuan (about 365 U.S. dollars) on an imported hair-growth appliance earlier this month.
The “helmet-like” electronic apparatus accounted for half of her monthly spending and is just one of several popular health-related products on her shopping list.
Yali has joined a growing number of young Chinese consumers who eschew fast food and entertainment products in favor of things like vitamin tablets, herbal beverages and neck massagers.
Though many doubt the efficacy of these products or services, more young Chinese people are enjoying the comfort brought by their consumption and are willing to pour big money into health.
“Maybe these things can’t cure illnesses, but at least they can remind me not to take my health for granted,” Yali said.
“The health-consumption fad mirrors their awareness of the importance of a health regimen,” said Zhao Ziqiang, chief operating officer of e-commerce business at Tongrentang Group, a renowned traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) pharmacy.
Unlike previous generations, people born after 1990 are willing to spend more on preserving their health and keeping fit.
To attract more young consumers, the time-honored TCM brand has recently developed a batch of instant and inexpensive products, such as goji berry coffees, herbal tea bags and instant bird-nest soups.
“They all sell well,” Zhao said.
Data on other major e-commerce platforms also shows that young Chinese people are investing more in health.
During the “Double 11” shopping festival, health examination services, medical dressings, human papillomavirus vaccines and instant bird-nest soups are the most popular health-related products for consumers under the age of 25 on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Tmall.
On JD Health, the health care subsidiary of Chinese tech giant JD.com, vaccine services and oral-health services have increased by 20 times and 12 times, respectively, compared with last year.
COVID-19 is also making young consumers more health-conscious. Zhang Wei, 32, said he has paid more attention to his immune system since the outbreak of the epidemic and has bought health-exam services for both his parents and himself.
Poor health is the biggest motivating factor. Zhang said he often works late and sits in front of a screen for long periods, giving him an obese physique and weakened athletic ability. News of young people dying at work has also frightened him.
China’s social media platforms abound with self-mocking posts by people born in the 1990s showing their receding hairlines. Excessive stress, anxiety and poor health habits have been identified as causes of premature baldness.
A report published in the British Medical Journal in April showed that the prevalence rate of diabetes in China has reached 2 percent among people aged 18 to 29, and stands at 6.3 percent among those aged 30 to 39. In 1996, the rates for the two age groups were just 0.56 percent and 1.36 percent, respectively.
Furthermore, insomnia and obesity rates are spreading among younger Chinese people.
The growing number of young health consumers reflects a range of problems, such as the increased incidence of certain diseases among young people, the prevalence of unhealthy lifestyles and health anxiety brought on by social stress, said Dai Ying, an expert in healthcare management at a public hospital in Nanjing, east China’s Jiangsu Province.
Young people may follow different health regimens, but the core should always be cultivating science-based habits, Dai said.
“They could start by not staying up late, doing more exercise and eating healthily.”