There’s lots of talk out there about a little something called CBD. In recent years, the market for the cannabis-derived compound has exploded and is set to reach almost $17 billion by 2025. Scientists are currently studying its possible uses, and consumers (both literally and figuratively) are snapping it up and trying it out.
There’s quite a bit of positive evidence piling up for CBD benefits, but while scientists continue to science their way through the whats and whys and wherefores of CBD oil, the current lack of large-scale empirical evidence doesn’t stop people from buying in. For CBD companies, business is good.
We know that CBD is a fast-growing industry. In 2019, the hemp-derived CBD market in the U.S. hit $4.2 billion, and while full 2020 data isn’t in yet, industry researcher Brightfield Group estimated that the market grew about 14 percent last year. So someone’s buying it. Colloquial evidence suggests that there’s at least something to it, or the whole market would just collapse, right? So who’s using it? Let’s take a dive into CBD demographics.
Why Are People Using CBD?
A 2017 study conducted by Brightfield Group and HelloMD looked at 2,400 members of the HelloMD community to determine how they were using CBD and the effects it was having on them. HelloMD is an online community that brings cannabis patients and doctors together to discuss cannabis issues. Brightfield Group studies consumption trends and demand inside the cannabis industry and is committed to providing the most accurate data available.
A May 2020 survey by New Frontier Data found that 18 percent, or nearly one in five of their respondents had tried CBD. Of those, about 40 percent used it at least once a week. When asked their primary reason for using it, the most popular responses were physical discomfort (41 percent), relaxation (33 percent), and general wellness (18 percent).
An April 2019 CBD survey by Quartz with Harris Poll differed slightly in that it asked respondents for all the reasons they used CBD instead of just picking the main one, but it found similar patterns. Relaxation and stress relief were cited by more than half of CBD users, with sleep irregularities also a common reason. Over a third had tried it for physical discomfort, while smaller numbers cited various other reasons (13 percent said “spiritual use”; make of that what you will).
Remember, folks, CBD is not currently an FDA-approved treatment for any of these problems, so definitely talk to your doctor before using CBD. But the results do present some intriguing evidence for CBD oil benefits.
Another notable data point from the New Frontier survey concerned what kinds of CBD products users preferred. CBD oil tinctures were the most commonly used, with nearly two-thirds having consumed them at some point. CBD topicals and CBD edibles had been consumed by about a third of users each.
What Types Of People Are Using CBD?
Surveys have found that people of all ages use CBD, but it’s more likely if they’re on the young side. New Frontier’s study found that 23 percent of respondents in the 18-34 age range had tried it, compared to 21 percent in the 35-54 group and just 14 percent aged 55 and up. The Harris poll split the middle group and found that age 45 actually seemed to be the pivot point: people younger than 45 were much more likely to have used CBD than those who were older.
A January 2019 Consumer Reports survey found a similar youthful tilt to CBD use and examined age differences in the reasons people were using CBD. Millennials were much more likely than their elders to be using it for relaxation and stress reduction, while aging baby boomers were more likely to use it for joint discomfort.
The Harris Poll also looked at gender, and found that men were more likely than women to both have tried CBD and to be using it regularly. Naming their reasons for using it, men were a lot more likely than women to use CBD socially (28 percent vs. 15 percent) and spiritually (16 percent vs. 9 percent) and somewhat less likely to be using it for other purposes.
Back in 2017, a Brightfield/HelloMD survey also dug into the income, education, and ethnicity of CBD users and found them to be quite a diverse group on those fronts. African Americans were somewhat scarce (5 percent vs. 13 percent for the U.S. as a whole), though that may reflect a geographic factor that all the surveys noticed. People in the western states are far more likely to be using CBD than elsewhere, probably because of their history of looser cannabis laws, and those states have a different ethnic mix than other parts of the country.
How Have the Events of 2020 Affected CBD Use?
All this CBD research was done before the events of 2020 came along and upended everything. But in an August 2020 update, Brightfield noted some negative effects for the CBD industry.
For one, the Food and Drug Administration has been tied up in other matters, so the hoped-for clarification of CBD regulations isn’t happening this year. And Brightfield’s projection of $17 billion in U.S. CBD sales by 2025 is actually scaled back from even more ambitious forecasts it gave last year, presumably because of the economic crunch.
But actual CBD use doesn’t seem to be taking much of a hit. In fact, about 40 percent of the CBD users Brightfield surveyed said they were using more CBD and spending more money on it, in response to this year's stresses. Again, the younger crowd was leading the way: some 52 percent of millennial users said they were spending more on CBD.
The main change in spending habits, not surprisingly, was that people were buying more of their CBD online. Nearly half of respondents, and more than half of millennials, said they’d shifted to online CBD shopping and away from brick and mortar outlets.
Everyone’s Doing It
When you look at all these CBD statistics, it seems that the answer to the question of who’s using CBD is everyone. There doesn’t appear to be an age group, gender, or walk of life that isn’t interested in exploring what CBD may have to offer. Until we have unquestionable scientific evidence of how CBD does what it does, people will continue to depend on word of mouth, and it looks like that word is good.