Saunas remain a hot topic in health and wellness, and they’re definitely growing in popularity on a global scale. But due to factors like Brexit, the depreciation of the Pound, and other economic factors, the industry has experienced some downturns too.
However, a quick glance at statistics for 2022 and 2023 shows that the popularity of saunas and their immense health benefits ensure that a growing number of people are taking advantage of what they have to offer:
- The sauna market is expected to contract at a CAGR of 2.5% through 2022-23 to £534 million.
- There were 2000 sauna businesses in the UK in 2022.
- 2500: The increase in UK sauna businesses for 2023.
- 181 million Americans visited a spa in 2022.
- 10 million people in Japan take saunas regularly.
- The sauna and spa market is predicted to grow from $126.55 billion in 2023 to $181.06 billion by 2028.
- Between 2023-2028, the sauna and spa market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 7.43%.
- 83.5% of people say they sleep better after spending time in a sauna.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s been a marked increase in health and wellness, and saunas are getting a boost from this too. All indications point toward industry growth, and delving deeper into the current statistics, trends, and facts reveals why.
The Origins Of Saunas
The word sauna means “wooden bath house” in Finnish, and the health practice is said to have originated in the Scandinavian countries of northern Europe thousands of years ago.
In fact, before the birth of modern medicine, most Finnish babies were born in saunas. Traditionally, Finnish sauna users favour dry heat with low humidity, while Turkish sauna users enjoy high humidity.
To create the sauna effect, stones were heated on fire before water was poured over the stones to create steam and heat, and this practice evolved in numerous different ways as it spread across the world.
Native Americans used sweat lodges for their rituals (and still do to this day) while many old African societies used fire and heat to treat those with infectious diseases. Other cultures use heat and steam for spiritual, health and social reasons. Modern Muslims still visit hammams or bath houses today in many countries, particularly in Turkey where they are favoured for cleansing and spiritual and social communion.
In today’s world, saunas come in all shapes and sizes and are categorized according to how the room is heated. These include electrically heated, wood burning, infrared, and steam.
You’ll find saunas of all kinds in spas, hotels, cruise liners, gyms and fitness centres, and private households and in varying sizes.
The Health Benefits Of Saunas
So, what happens in the body when you take a sauna and sweat profusely?
Firstly, those feel-good hormones endorphins are released, your blood vessels dilate, and your circulation improves. Your heart rate or pulse increases, and this has the same effect on your body as moderate exercise. Secondly, when you combine sauna use and exercise, the growth hormone is released by as much as 200%.
Heat conditioning used by athletes sends more blood to the heart, which delivers more oxygen circulation, improving athletic performance. The same applies to our muscles with increased blood flow delivering oxygen. Regular saunas reduce muscle degeneration, and they recover better. These are just a few of the reasons that athletes use saunas to increase their stamina, circulation and recovery rate.
Additionally, science has shown that heat therapy positively impacts the mitochondria in our cells. These cellular powerhouses are the batteries of our cells, contributing to energy and fitness levels. During a sauna session, cell degeneration slows down, and cardiac health is boosted. Chemicals and heavy metals are sweated out, leading to detoxification, as taking regular saunas helps us to excrete chemicals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium.
Taking regular saunas also regulates our appetite as our metabolism increases. The associated improved oxygen uptake burns fat and leads to weight loss.
Other good news is that regular saunas boost the brain neurotrophic factor, which stimulates the growth of new brain cells. Existing cells are well maintained, leading to neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to form new neural connections).
Importantly, your immune system is boosted by increasing heat shock proteins which stimulate antigen-presenting cells and the release of cytokines. This plays a major role in our cell’s ability to signal and stimulate our natural immune system.
Lastly, your emotional health and mood will be much improved. Taking a regular sauna will leave you relaxed, de-stressed, and detoxified.
Sauna Studies Highlight The Advantages
A cross-sectional study of sauna users in 29 countries stated there’s an expanding body of medical evidence recognising the health benefits of taking saunas and whole-body thermotherapy.
The primary reasons stated by respondents included stress relief, relaxation, pain relief and socialising. Around a third of respondents stated they used saunas for back or musculoskeletal pain as well as mental health. This group stressed saunas alleviated their conditions effectively.
About 83.5% of respondents also reported they slept better after taking a sauna.
Surprisingly, many sauna users enjoyed the social aspects of saunas, with many favouring them to meet business colleagues and friends.
A Global Adoption Of Saunas
It would appear that sauna use to promote wellness truly is a global practice.
Egypt has a tradition of using steam rooms and heat therapy, as does Russia, thanks to its close proximity to Finland. In these countries, sauna users often jump into icy waters or roll around in the snow straight after they emerge from the heat.
In Southeast Asia, just about every village in Laos has a sauna, Indian Ayurvedic medicine uses heat therapy extensively, and Japan and Korea have many hot springs used extensively by the population. In the Western world, saunas are found in gyms, health clubs, spas, and many private homes.
The Sauna Market In 2022
There’s no doubt that the pandemic had a negative effect on the sauna and spa market from 2020-mid-2022. But conversely, it also led to an increased awareness of the importance of health, fitness, and self-care.
The sauna market worth was expected to contract at a compound annual rate of 2.5% through 2022-23 to £534 million. However, the depreciation of the Pound following the Brexit vote to leave the EU resulted in an influx of international tourists to the UK as it was cheaper.
“The sauna market worth was expected to contract at a compound annual rate of 2.5% through 2022-23 to £534 million. “
But the inflationary crisis has proved another damaging factor to the sauna industry.
In 2022 there were just over 200 sauna and solarium businesses in the UK, and that number is expected to reach 2500 in 2023. However, the numbers tell us that the number of saunas and solarium businesses in the UK has grown by 5.7% per year, on average from 2018 to 2023.
Sauna businesses are mostly found in London (23 businesses), the more affluent South East (15) and the North West (10) in the UK.
Statista reports that 181 million Americans visited a spa in 2022. The US infrared sauna market segment has grown tremendously by 50% in the last five years. The US states which have demonstrated the biggest growth include Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Montana—all these states have freezing winters.
Over in Asia, saunas and heat therapy are also big businesses, from the traditional wooden hut with a wood-burning stove to the uber-trendy boutique saunas offered in Japan. The Japanese sauna industry weathered Covid as people flocked to saunas, and the country even features pop-up saunas. In fact, Japan has a very strong sauna culture called Sento while hot springs are called onsen. The hot springs are usually found in rural areas.
Like Finnish saunas, Japanese saunas are dry with low humidity. The Japanese Sauna and Spa Association states that around 10 million people use saunas regularly in Japan and the popularity is growing. Even Trip Advisor has a list of the best saunas in Asia for “saunners” as sauna lovers are called.
Japan also has a sauna rating site called Sauna Ikitai which had 9000 registered users in 2022.
Sauna Statistics In 2023
The sauna and spa market worth is predicted to grow from $126.55 billion in 2023 to $181.06 billion by 2028. The market will expand at a CAGR of 7.43% from 2023-2028.
The growing wellness industry in North America, Europe and Asia is one of the major growth drivers of the sauna and spa market.
Trends In Saunas And Wellness
Infrared saunas are big news right now. These saunas use infrared light to directly heat the body rather than heating the surrounding air. Their benefits include detoxification, pain relief, and improved circulation, making them popular with athletes wanting to improve their health.
A new trend is the cryotherapy sauna. In these saunas, users are exposed to extremely cold temperatures for short periods of around 2-3 minutes. Enthusiasts of this kind of sauna swear this chilly treatment helps muscles recover, reduces inflammation, and boosts cellular metabolism.
Specialised spa saunas:
Spas featuring specialized sauna treatments are another trend. There are Himalayan Salt walled saunas, aromatherapy-infused saunas, and many spas that offer yoga in the sauna.
Sustainability is another big trend as consumers expect spas and wellness centres to be mindful of their footprint in our ever-warming world. Energy-efficient heating systems are rising as is the use of sustainable resources such as wood.
As incomes rise, affluent homeowners are flocking to install either stand-alone saunas or integrate a sauna into their bathroom space. Many of these are smart saunas that use voice activation, remote temperature, and humidity control.
Not everyone is working from home these days, and businesses are increasingly paying attention to employee wellness programmes. Work-life balance is a watchword in our post-Covid world, and more and more companies offer relaxation areas and saunas.
Sauna design trends:
Consumers in the US, UK, and Europe favour Scandinavian design in their choice of saunas. This means minimalist and sleek saunas with no baroque opulence. Scandinavian design is highly sought after in Germany where it’s estimated that almost 50% of sauna buyers prefer this sleek minimalism. Compare that to the home of the sauna, Finland where a mere 30% of sauna buyers favor Nordic design. Having said that, there will always be a market for luxurious saunas and Turkish baths. Another trend is spacious saunas. Saunas are no longer a poky and dark space tucked away in a corner. In terms of colours, consumers in 2022 and 2023 seem to favour black for sauna benches, equipment, and stoves, complemented by natural timbers. Clouds of opulent steam are also a trend, resulting in the rising popularity of sauna tower stoves.
Not only do consumers want sleek lines and comfort, but they also want their saunas to be secure and safe. This is usually achieved by smart automation which can activate or switch saunas off remotely. Barriers and grids keep users away from stoves and heating stoves and are usually integrated into the overall design.
New Sauna Markets
Let’s not forget the younger generation of Millennials and Gen Z’ers who are also discovering the benefits of saunas. They have disposable income, are big spenders before they settle and become homeowners, and their buying patterns have changed thanks to their lifestyle choices.
As they favour social health much more than Baby Boomers, their higher salaries enable them to spend more money on things important to them. This includes incorporating health and wellness into their lifestyle, and they’re willing to pay the costs. This generation is happy to spend money on healthy natural products, quality food and nutrition and self-care—including spa and sauna treatments.
Saunas Set To Enjoy Sustainable Growth
To sum up, the growth in the global hospitality and wellness industry since the world has opened up, together with the associated influx of tourists, is expected to keep the sauna and spa market thriving throughout 2023 and well into the future.