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The Top 13 Media & Shows that Gen Z & Millennials Turn to When They’re Stressed

The most stressed generations are using content as medicine, tuning into media with the specific intention of treating their moods. Exactly what are they watching when they’re overwhelmed? We found out…

In our new trend report Content Cure, we explore the ways that Gen Z and Millennials are using media as medicine for their moods, intentionally tuning into specific media as an intentional mood-altering fix. With an overwhelming bounty of media to choose from, and the majority using streaming services that allow them to choose what they want to watch from a seemingly endless amount of media, they’re using their moods as a filter. We found that 47% of 13-36-year-olds say they choose the entertainment that they watch/listen to match their mood, and 47% choose it to change their mood—making mood a bigger determiner of what content they are consuming than recommendations from friends, suggestions from platforms, or advertisements. Whether watching a familiar sitcom when they’re feeling lonely or their favorite drama when they need to tune out the world, young consumers are using different types of programming as a prescription, and content as a cure.

When we asked about the moods that they have a specific type of content for, stress was the second largest category. We’ve looked before at some of the entertainment trends that have been fueled by young consumers’ stress, but exactly what kinds of content are they turning to when they’re stressed and overwhelmed? We asked, and these were their top 13 responses:

The Content They Consume When They’re Stressed Or Overwhelmed
      1. Comedy
      2. Music
      3. The Office
      4. Friends
      5. ASMR
      6. Bob’s Burgers
      7. Horror
      8. Grey’s Anatomy
      9. Cooking videos
      10. YouTube
      11. Animal videos
      12. Parks and Recreation
      13. Netflix

*This was an open-end response question to allow us to capture the full range of content that Millennials and Gen Z turn to when they’re stressed or overwhelmed—without our preconceived ideas shaping their responses. As with any qualitative question, the responses include those that are top of mind and those that are most popular. The list is ordered according to number of responses received, and alphabetically when ties occurred.

So what media are they tuning into when they’re feeling stressed? The general response of “comedy” was the top answer, but it’s the specific comedies that they mentioned that are even more revealing. The Office ranks at number three on the list, and the classics Friends and Parks & Recreation also make the top 13. As all of these shows stopped airing before some Gen Zs were even born, so we know that Netflix is their conduit to binge these reruns. One takeaway from this list is that certain shows are comfort food. When young people are feeling stressed, they tend to seek out classic shows, content they know they’ll like, to right any of the day’s wrongs. These shows are also near the top of the ranking of shows they turn to when they’re annoyed, bored, comfortable, happy, lonely, relaxed, sad, stressed, tired, and sick. They’re soothing cure-alls for young viewers, so it’s no wonder these reruns have become hot commodities. The Office is one of the top streamed shows on Netflix, but is being removed from the platform by NBC—who spent $500 million to get it back. (Much to the distress of young viewers, who have come to rely on their The Office binge-sessions.)

It’s notable that the general response of “Netflix” is number 13 on the list. Turning on the streaming service is an antidote to stress for these generations, who see a binge session as a Band-Aid to their woes. Business Insider also reported that Millennials are turning to Netflix, Hulu, and TV to treat their burnout. According to research by YellowBrick, 16% of 23-38-year-olds watch those platforms to cope with what Urban Dictionary defines as, “A state of emotional and physical exhaustion caused by a prolonged period of stress and frustration.” Sleeping, exercising, meditating, and other ways of coping fell behind seeking out favorite shows and movies, and 54% of Gen Z & Millennials told YPulse they watch a show or movie when they’re unhappy in our  Content Cure research.

It’s also important to call out that it’s not just TV shows, genres, or services on the ranking: short video is also an important part of content as a cure. “YouTube” is number 10 on the ranking, and short content like ASMR, cooking videos, and animal videos are all on the list. When young consumers need a quick mood boost during their day, a visit to YouTube might be their answer.