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Over Half of Gen Z & Millennials Think This Is A More Effective Anxiety Treatment Than Therapy

The anxiety-plagued generations are addressing their mental health, and they’re more likely to think one thing is more effective in treating pain and anxiety than therapy or prescription drugs…

According to YPulse’s trend research, 61% of 13-17-year-olds and 55% of 18-36-year-olds say they constantly feel stressed. The majority of both groups agree that they feel anxious about the future, and that they often feel overwhelmed. These are high-anxiety generations. The Economist reports that Gen Z actually believes mental health issues are the biggest problem they face as a generation. About 70% of 13-17-year-olds told the Pew Research Center that anxiety and depression were major issues among people their age, with only a small portion saying they’re not a problem. The generation also ranked these mental health issues ahead of bullying, drug addiction, drinking alcohol, teen pregnancy, and other problems that plague young people.

According to Vox, “anxiety consumerism” is on the rise as more viral products promise stress relief. Fidget Cubes and Gravity Blankets both went viral on Kickstarter, leading to fidget spinners, weighted blankets, and more becoming mental health panaceas. We’ve written about some of the ways these young consumers seek to escape that anxiety—from ASMR to skin care—but treating it is also on their minds. The majority of Gen Z and Millennials tell YPulse that they’ve noticed that people are making mental health more of a priority lately, and therapy is losing its stigma as more young people add sessions to their self-care regiments. The Wall Street Journal called Millennials “the therapy generation,” reporting on a Penn State University study that found the rate at which students sought out help with their mental health from 2011 to 2016 was five times greater than the rate of new student enrollment. Our most recent health and fitness survey found that 36% of 13-36-year-olds have visited a mental health professional like a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or life coach. Beyond therapy, there are perhaps more avenues than ever before for young consumers to try to address or relieve their stress. The rise of CBD has shown that they’re open to alternatives, and we’ve even found that the majority see video games as a form of stress treatment.

But when we ask them to rate some of the available forms of treatment and relief, including CBD, therapy, prescription drugs, and alternative approaches, a perhaps unexpected choice rises to the top. There is only one thing that the majority of Gen Z and Millennials agree is very effective at treating anxiety and pain, placing it above both therapy and prescription drugs:


Almost six in ten 13-36-year-olds say that exercise is very effective at treating pain or anxiety. For these generations, working out is viewed as a more effective anxiety treatment than therapy, prescription drugs, or alternative medicines. Is it any wonder that the wellness boom is reaching a fever pitch? In fact, 92% of 13-36-year-olds tell YPulse that working out is just as much for mental health as physical health, and when we ask young consumers why they exercise, 35% say to improve their mental health and 35% say to relieve stress or frustration (not too far from the 41% who say they exercise to lose weight). Looking at differences between the generations, we see that while Millennials are slightly more likely to think that exercise is a very effective form of treatment, the majority of both groups subscribe to this belief.

Considering the time that they’ve grown up, when prescriptions for everything from ADD to depression have become increasingly common at young ages, it is notable that less than half of young consumers think that prescription drugs are a very effective treatment for pain or anxiety. These generations have grown incredibly wary of medication, watching the addiction epidemic grow to epic proportions. Almost nine in ten tell us that they’re cautious about taking too many prescription drugs.

Some may be surprised that prayer is considered a very effective treatment of pain or anxiety by so many (almost three in ten) young consumers. But don’t forget that that Millennials and Gen Z’s view of religion is hardly cut and dry, and though they may be less traditionally religious than previous generations, they still believe in plenty: 40% of Millennials and Gen Z say religion is very important to them, and 63% believe in God.

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.