Gen Z and Millennials have taken mental health from taboo to an open conversation—and now it’s being transformed into a new kind of entertainment…
The majority of young consumers tell YPulse that they feel constantly stressed—and that was pre-pandemic. Gen Z and Millennials are both prone to burn out, but they’re also both more open about their mental health and their pursuit for mental wellness. We’ve been tracking young consumers’ focus on mental health for some time, and watched as they’ve fueled trends like meditation apps and mindfulness, while bringing conversations about mental wellness to new platforms. Now, we’re seeing these trends being tapped by entertainment giants looking to appeal to the next generations of viewers.
Already, mental health has been a marketing touchpoint for those looking to reach Gen Z and Millennials. Pre-pandemic, we noted that “branded therapy” was a marketing trend with staying power. In 2019, Coach hosted a pop-up focused on “mindfulness” Lola tampons, Unbound, Tuxe, and many others leveraged the self-care movement, and Lego began targeting stressed-out adults. During COVID, the trend only continued, with Netflix launching Wanna Talk About It? celebrity chats on Instagram Live to address Gen Z’s pandemic woes, and backpack brand Jansport starting #LightenTheLoad—a campaign targeting Gen Z that provides them with resources as they face “unprecedented challenges” during COVID.
But in the last few months a slew of mental health and mindfulness-focused series have also begun to appear, all targeting Gen Z and Millennials. Kidscreen reports that meditation content for kids is growing during the pandemic. According to Statista, the growing U.S. meditation market is projected to reach more than $2 billion by 2022. During COVID, brands have stepped up to support Gen Z and Millennials’ mental health, and many kids’ media companies, like Sesame Workshop, BBC, and Capacitor, have started developing mindfulness content aimed at even younger consumers. BBC launched Your Mindful Garden, its “first-ever meditation-focused app for kids” that features tips, games, and animated videos to help kids destress. Meanwhile, Capacitor has partnered with YouTube channel Cosmic Kids for an in-development series.
Perhaps most notably, Disney+ (which 39% of Millennial parents tell YPulse they watch weekly or more) very recently released their own meditation-adjacent content: Zenimation. The new series is a collection of shorts that loops animation from popular films like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Moana and Frozen 2 with soothing sound effects. With video categories like “Water,” “Nature,” “Cityscapes,” the content is meant to relax and soothe during a tough time. Each episode starts with a message to “Refresh your senses with a moment of mindfulness”—but for parents, the music-free, calming content also provides a much-needed break from the usual hectic TV, movie, and YouTube offerings.
We noted in June that with major players like Disney joining in, meditation and mindfulness content for is clearly a rising entertainment trend to watch—and now we’re seeing mental wellness shows being created for older viewers as well. The Calm meditation app is getting its very own “celebrity-filled” show on HBO Max in what Deadline calls the network’s “first brush with the health and wellness space.” Formatted as a season of 10 half hour episodes, the upcoming show, World of Calm, which will feature “scientifically-engineered narratives” read by celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, and Keanu Reeves, accompanied by visuals produced by National Geographic. Calm features similar narrations, called “Sleep Stories,” on their app and their Instagram (sometimes sponsored by brands) and the content blurs the line between mindfulness and storytelling. While much of Calm’s content focuses on breathing exercises and the like, these narrations marry mental wellness and entertainment—and HBO Max is giving the hybrid genre an even bigger audience.
Mental wellness has also become an increasing focus on social media—which, let’s face it, is perhaps a bigger entertainment source for Gen Z and Millennials’ than TV. Back in May during Mental Health Awareness month, TikTok hosted an online campaign to raise awareness with the hashtag #mentalhealthawareness (which has accumulated 1.8 billion views) for users to share their stories, fight stigma, educate the community, and advocate for others. Hashtags like #mentalhealth and #mentalhealthmatters have each been viewed millions and billions of times. Increasingly, with in-person appointments rare, more therapists are also joining the app to provide advice, tips, and “lighthearted information” that serves as educational entertainment and as a way to keep young users’ hope alive during a difficult time. TikTok therapists like Dr. Julie Smith (@drjuliesmith), Dr. David Puder (@dr.davidpuder) and Dr. Marquis Norton (@drnortontherapyare gaining thousands of young followers. Now, The Verge reports that Snapchat and Headspace are rolling out a Mini meditation app which will include six 3-to-4 minute long meditation sessions with themes like “Just Breathe,” “Get Out of a Funk,” “Kick the Panic,” “Be Nice to You,” “Pressure to Succeed,” and “Me Time.”
As mental health continues to be a major priority for young consumers, we’ll likely continue to see entertainment trends that focus on therapy, mindfulness, and open conversations on TV, social media, and beyond.