One of the things that worries me the most is the growing incidence of stress in our society. Over the last 30 years, self-reported stress levels have gone up 25 percent for men and 18 percent for women. Stress is a big contributor to the increase of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. So it's a much bigger problem than most people realize, but thankfully there does seem to be a growing awareness of the destructive power and cost of stress—in terms of both dollars and lives. Stress wreaks havoc not just on our relationships, our careers and our happiness, but also on our health. On the collective level, the price we're paying is staggering—stress costs American businesses an estimated $300 billion a year, according the World Health Organization. This is partly because stress was also the most common reason for long-term health-related absence in a survey conducted by CIPD, the world's largest human resources association.
In the U.S., 36 million adults suffer from high blood pressure that isn't being controlled even though 32 million of them are receiving regular medical care. And nearly as many Americans—over 25 million—have diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 75 percent of health care spending is for chronic diseases that could be prevented. This is one reason why health care costs are growing exponentially: spending rose 3.8 percent in 2010 and 4.6 percent in 2011.
The easier, healthier and cheaper way to treat stress is to deal with its causes instead of its effects. The good news is that we know what to do: practices like mindfulness, meditation, yoga and healthy sleep habits have proven extremely successful in combating stress. And awareness of the benefits of stress reduction is spreading, from the classrooms of the Harvard Business School, where students learn to better understand their emotions, to major corporations around the world which have added meditation, mindfulness training and yoga to the workplace. Olympic athletes have made napping and stress reduction part of their daily routine. Veterans, and the medical professionals who treat them, are increasingly embracing yoga as an effective way to navigate the consequences of PTSD.
Plus, new high-tech tools are making it possible for individuals to take more and more control of their own health. The first wave of connecting technology hyper-connected us to the entire world—but, in the process, often disconnected us from ourselves. That's why I'm so excited about the new wave of technology that reconnects us to ourselves. For example, a robust market of wearable devices has emerged, monitoring everything from activity and food intake to weight and sleep. Thirty million wearable devices were shipped in 2012, and 80 million are on track to ship in 2016—by which time consumer wearables will be a $6 billion market. These many innovations are signals of a significant change in attitude about the role technology can, and should, be playing in our lives.