HOW THE 1% STAY HEALTHY
£2,000 A MONTH ON PERSONAL TRAINING SESSIONS £65,000 A YEAR ON SCANS AND ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES
The country’s wealthiest people will pay anything to improve and maintain their health – these are the life-lengthening treatments, tests and programmes money can buy
IF YOU’VE EVER WONDERED WHAT IT COSTS TO HAVE PERFECT HEALTH, THEN LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE SUPER-RICH, WHO ARE THROWING THEIR TIME AND MONEY INTO THE PURSUIT OF AN AGELESS BODY
Martha* looks expensive. Not freshly minted footballer’s wife expensive. Not bouncy-haired ladies who don’t lunch expensive. But quietly expensive: skin that glimmers like the Cullinan Diamond; a body as smooth as Carrara marble. Just unmistakably well crafted. And so she should: the 34-year-old luxury retailer spends almost £4,OOO a month – that’s how much it costs to be tweaked and perfected by the latest advances in health. There’s the weekly three-minute cryotherapy sessions at £1OO a pop (for anti-ageing). Then there’s the £125 personal training workouts, of which she has four each week. There’s also the mandatory £15O monthly vitamin drip and at least one massage a fortnight (call it £16O), as well as a personalised supplement plan that seems a bargain at £5O per week. ‘That’s around £4,OOO, including the cryo, but not including facials and beauty things, of course,’ she says. Of course. And, to be fair, it’s working for her. With her plump, practically line-free face, and raven hair so shiny you could almost reapply your lipstick in front of it, she is a walking advertisement for the power of whacking a hefty monthly mortgage payment at your health. But how much is good health really worth? Apparently, when you’re part of the super-rich set, the answer is: a lot. When UBS investment bank surveyed its millionaires, nine out of ten agreed that ‘health is more important than wealth’ with its highest earners willing to give up half of their fortune to guarantee an extra decade of good health. Because when you have everything money can buy, what you really want is the one thing it can’t. Until now. An entire industry has sprung up over the past decade, catering largely to the wealthiest 1%, but also to mere fiscal mortals, too, who aspire to perfect health in the way they once aspired to own a Birkin bag. Take last year’s two-day Goop conference, where doctors, scientists and health-mad celebrities took to the stage at London’s Re:Centre sanctuary. A one-day ticket set visitors back £1,OOO. But for a two-day, full-access pass with VIP workouts and a room at the shiny new Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel? Try £4,5OO. (According to Goop, all of these full-access tickets sold out.) Or take the new offering from the exclusive Arts Club in London, which has teamed up with Lanserhof, the almost mythical Austrian health retreat that has been peddling longevity and luminosity for decades. Now, those members can pay £6,5OO a year (nonmembers will have to cough up an extra £1,5OO) to have access to their on-site Lanserhof clinic. For that they can throw as much at their health and body as they like, with MRI scans, DNA tests, osteopathy sessions, shock wave therapy, acupuncture treatments… the list goes on. And on. At the top end of the health scale, however, the sky is the limit. At RAADfest, an annual conference held in the US attended by many of the world’s leading billionaires, a number of scientists and technologists parade the latest evolutions in healthcare. They are dystopian-sounding technologies, such as hyperbaric oxygen chambers that offer expediated healing, as well as stem cell IV infusions (yours for around £875 a pop). What do they all have in common? A big price tag and the promise of immortality. After all, RAAD stands for The Revolution Against Aging and Death, and is organised by the controversial Coalition for Radical Life Extension. Their mission: to help the super-rich dispose of their money before they hit their graves. But, ideally for them, not to hit their tombstones... ever.
Dr Sabine Donnai is the founder of private health service Viavi and creator of its Health Assessment and Health Strategy, seen as the Aston Martin of health programmes. Donnai, previously the medical director at Nuffield Health Wellbeing, saw a gap in the market for an assessment that went beyond the norm. ‘The market was there. They’ve worked hard, they’ve made money and now they ask, “I want to continue enjoying this, so what do I do?”,’ she explains. ‘They want the data. They want the control. They want to understand what their health looks like.’ Her clientele is split into two groups. The first: the ‘worried well’, seeking preventive measures. ‘They come to us to understand a thorough picture of their health and what they can do to improve it,’ says Donnai. For example, a hormone test might reveal underlying reasons for weight gain, or a toxin level result might expose risks to your immune system. The second, smaller group have been diagnosed with a problem, but want to ‘solve it rather than treat it’. The difference is important. ‘Say they have cancer – we aren’t oncologists or surgeons, but our role might be to identify how they could prevent it from returning. They don’t want to be hassled by illness,’ says Donnai. ‘But want to live a better life.’ Viavi’s assessment can go as far as the client chooses. In a single day, you can have everything from a transvaginal scan and breast ultrasound to a urine hormone screen and toxic body burden test. When I ask one client, an international business owner in her forties, why she chose to invest in the test, she says,
“SHE IS A WALKING advertisment for the. POWER OF WHACKING a hefty monthly mortgage PAYMENT AT YOUR HEALTH ”
“THE MARKET WAS THERE. They want the data. THEY WANT THE CONTROL. THEY want to understand what THEIR HEALTH LOOKS LIKE ”
‘It’s the best. It’s hard to put a price on it…’ she trails off. Viavi, however, is happy to do so: the full Health Assessment and Health Strategy costs £15,OOO. On the other side of the city, Workshop Gymnasium is doing for fitness what Viavi is doing for health: catering to the demands of the richest 1%. Hidden in Knightsbridge, beneath the Bvlgari Hotel, it looks more like a hedge fund manager’s apartment than a gym, with wooden floors, honeyed lighting and towers of glossy green apples beside fans of shiny magazines. Its top-tier membership will set you back £13,OOO a year. There are also add-ons, including supplements and physiotherapy, pushing some members’ spend past the £2O,OOO mark. It’s where Martha splurges on her £125 an hour PT sessions with founder Lee Mullins, who reports increasing interest in his services from around the world. (Workshop has locations in China, Milan, Dubai and Bali.) ‘They want a customised approach and come for the assessments we offer to tailor their programme,’ he says of his client base of CEOs, entertainment industry types and models. They also get training on demand – Workshop offers a 24/7 service, in a private setting if requested, with total discretion. Mullins is tight-lipped about his celebrity clients, save a handful of models, including brand ambassadors Amelia Windsor, Clara Paget and Eliza Cummings. Clients can even have a trainer travel with them on business trips or holidays – for a fee of up to £2,OOO per day.
There are options for those with slightly less disposable income. At BelleCell, a biohacking clinic next to The Ritz London, packages are available at varying levels. Set in a 5OO-year-old vault, comprising a series of spaceship-like pods, it serves to ‘optimise cell performance and recovery and offer effective health solutions – total wellbeing on a molecular level’. Which, in English, means they claim to make you better, stronger and healthier. This includes full bio-analysis tests and ‘cell-optimising treatments’ (oxygen pods, vitamin infusions, alien-esque capsules in which to exercise). The top package, a Genetic Test for Life, will set you back almost £3,OOO, but therapies start from £11O ‘in order to be accessible to everyone,’ says founder Kasia Zajkowska, a former molecular bio-scientist. Well, maybe not exactly everyone… Dropping up to £15,OOO on a health test attracts a specific section of the superwealthy, ‘one that’s already aware and selective about wellness,’ says Zajkowska. She claims they’re not doing it for vanity: ‘Their choice to spend is for the most part not about aesthetics, but futureproofing.’ For some, the investment in themselves does come with more of a beauty focus. Carrie, a 51-year-old property business company director, who lives in Cheshire, tells me that yes, she goes to the gym and takes supplements for health and longevity, but she wants to look better, too. She spends almost £1O,OOO a year on aesthetics alone (monthly facials, radiofrequency and microneedling) – money that is more than pocket-change to her. But she’s willing to prioritise the spend for the results. For many, even a single treatment at one of these clinics would be a luxury – or an impossibility. Never mind a super-screening that costs more than some house deposits. But in England, with the NHS available to all, are they even necessary? Women are offered free cervical screening from the age of 25, free breast screening from 5O and a free NHS health check from 4O. This extensive check looks for early signs of high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and dementia. And, according to former NHS GP Dr Juliet McGrattan, it could be the better option, even when you do have money to blow, due to the legitimacy of the tests. ‘With any screening test, there is a possibility that a ‘false positive’ (when something is detected that isn’t actually a problem) or a ‘false negative’ (when something is missed) may occur,’ she tells me. ‘The NHS has meticulously evaluated its offering to try to ensure it has the lowest number of these results.’ Her worry is that private tests ‘may not have been so thoroughly evaluated’. She adds that private companies can’t always offer care beyond the test, so you might be directed to your NHS GP anyway. In her opinion, there’s no need to part with money. As for Martha, her £4,OOO monthly investment is about ‘boosting energy, feeling better and staying strong’, something us mere mortals can relate to as we weave a rather less extortionate version of wellness into our daily lives. But she admits, ‘Appearances matter. I have to look the part and be seen to be taking part.’ It seems that consumption isn’t always so inconspicuous after all.