Topic: From menopause to anxiety: the new tech tackling women’s health problems
Apps tracking hormones and a gadget combatting hot flushes are some of the latest innovations in the femtech market, which is predicted to be worth $60bn by 2027.
When lifelong worrier Louise Stevenson asked her husband whether her anxiety was damaging, his answer stopped her in her tracks. “He said it had a negative impact on absolutely everything.” It was the prompt she needed to seek help.
Diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, she searched for tech-based tools to complement her therapy. “But I couldn’t find an app that offered what I wanted,” she says. “I was literally scribbling down my worries on backs of envelopes.” So the 41-year-old mum from Herefordshire ditched her job in financial services, created Worry Tree – one of 15 approved mental health tools in the NHS app library – and entered the flourishing femtech sector.
The app, which helps users notice and challenge their worries, is available to anyone, but 75% of her users are women. It turns out they’re twice as likely as men to experience anxiety. Stevenson has now won a place on a new dedicated accelerator, the London-based Femtech Lab, billed as the first in Europe to focus on this sector.
The term femtech, referring to products addressing health or wellbeing issues experienced by women, was coined about five years ago, however “we’ve barely scratched the surface”, according to Pauliina Martikainen, investment director at the venture capitalists Maki.vc. For example, it’s estimated that 1.2 billion women worldwide will be menopausal or postmenopausal by 2030 and almost no one is happy with the care on offer, she says, “creating a massive opportunity to provide better products and services. It has so much potential.”
So what’s new, or on the horizon? For menopausal women, there is a range of tech to assess and treat symptoms – from a bracelet (currently in development) that sends cooling sensations to the wrist to combat flushes, to digital services such as UK companies Stella (an app launching this summer) and Alva which offer consultations, specialist advice, even a virtual menopause coach, and doorstep delivery of treatments. “Companies that manage to build feedback loops can tap into valuable data that can be used in research and to create and validate new treatments,” says Martikainen.
Funding for the sector has soared around the world, she says, rising 171% in the three years to 2019 to reach just under £1bn (£949m/€1.1bn), with particularly strong growth in the UK, where many startups are bidding for their first slice of cash.
Topic Discussed: From menopause to anxiety: the new tech tackling women’s health problems
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