Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Wellbeing

The A to Z of the wellbeing industry: from angelic reiki to patient centred care

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 04 May 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2711
  1. David Colquhoun, research professor, pharmacology, University College London
  1. d.colquhoun{at}

Wellbeing is big business, but how much of it works?

Nobody could possibly be against wellbeing. It would be like opposing motherhood and apple pie. But a whole spectrum of activities comes under the wellbeing banner, from the undoubtedly well meaning patient centred care at one end to downright barmy new age claptrap at the other. The only question that really matters is: how much of it works?

Let’s start at the fruitcake end of the spectrum.

One thing is obvious. Wellbeing is big business. And if it is no more than a branch of the multibillion dollar positive thinking industry, save your money and get on with your life.

In June 2010 Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust sponsored a “festival of wellbeing” that included a complementary therapy taster day. In a BBC interview one practitioner used the advertising opportunity, paid for by the NHS, to say, “I’m an angelic reiki master teacher and also an angel therapist . . . Angels are just flying spirits, 100% just pure light from heaven. They are all around us. Everybody has a guardian angel.” Another said, “I am a member of the British Society of Dowsers and use a crystal pendulum to dowse in treatment sessions. Sessions may include a combination of meditation, colour breathing, crystals, colour scarves, and use of a light box.” You couldn’t make it up.

The enormous positive thinking industry is no better. Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription