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Yoga, Meditation on the Rise Among U.S. Adults and Kids

Health + Wellness
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If you can flow from "downward dog" to "upward dog," then you're part the growing number of yogis in the U.S.

In the last 5 years, the number of American adults and children who practice yoga and meditation has significantly increased, according to a government survey conducted last year.


The questionnaire—administered every 5 years as part of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)—is based on the responses of thousands of Americans about their health- and illness-related experiences.

"The survey data suggest that more people are turning to mind and body approaches than ever before," NCCIH acting director David Shurtleff said in a press release.

The results show that roughly 14 percent of adults practiced yoga and meditation in 2017. That's up from about 9.5 percent and 4 percent respectively compared to a similar survey fielded five years ago.

More Americans are doing yoga and mediation, according to a nationally representative survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

The percentage of children between ages 4 to 17 who practiced yoga in the past 12 months also jumped from 3.1 percent in 2012 to 8.4 percent in 2017. More youngsters are also meditating, from 0.6 percent in 2012 to 5.4 percent in 2017.

It's not clear what drove the increases, but two of the report authors, Tainya Clark and Lindsey Black, told CNBC it may be related to the popularity of meditation and yoga cellphone apps such as Headspace and Calm. Companies and schools are also offering such programs for employees and students, they added.

"Something really special is happening with our culture at a time when we need it most," Megan Jones Bell, Headspace's chief science officer commented to CNBC. "At a time when mental health problems are on the rise, something that improves focus and compassion is certainly something the world needs more of."

Here are some of the report's highlights among adults:

  • Yoga was the most commonly used complementary health approach among U.S. adults in 2012 (9.5 percent) and 2017 (14.3 percent). The use of meditation increased more than threefold from 4.1 percent in 2012 to 14.2 percent in 2017.
  • The use of chiropractors increased from 9.1 percent in 2012 to 10.3 percent in 2017.
  • In 2017, women were more likely to use yoga, meditation and chiropractors in the past 12 months than men.
  • Non-Hispanic white adults were more likely to use yoga, meditation and chiropractors than Hispanic and non-Hispanic black adults.

And here are some for children:

  • The percentage of children aged 4-17 years who used yoga in the past 12 months increased significantly from 3.1 percent in 2012 to 8.4 percent in 2017.
  • Meditation increased significantly from 0.6 percent in 2012 to 5.4 percent in 2017.
  • There was no statistically significant difference in the use of a chiropractor between 2012 and 2017 (3.5 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively).
  • In 2017, girls were more likely to have used yoga during the past 12 months than boys.
  • In 2017, older children (aged 12-17 years) were more likely to have used meditation and a chiropractor in the past 12 months than younger children (aged 4-11 years).
  • Non-Hispanic white children were more likely to have used yoga and a chiropractor in the past 12 months than non-Hispanic black children or Hispanic children.

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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