What’s been getting Gen Z and Millennials through this year? We asked them to tell us what’s been “like therapy” for them during COVID…
At the end of a, to put it lightly, tumultuous year, YPulse’s State of Mind trend research checked in on the mental wellness of young consumers.
We found that 2020 has indeed increased Gen Z and Millennials stress, anxiety, and burnout—but it has also increased their focus on mental health and wellness. We explored their current outlooks and the toll that this year has had on their mental health, but also looked at what resources they wish they had more of, how they feel about brands talking about these issues, and asked about all the ways they’ve been coping in 2020.
As these generations have sought escapes from their intensified anxiety, they’ve fueled trends and created booms for entire industries. So, what are some of the top ways they’ve gotten through this year? We asked 13-39-year-olds to complete the sentence: “During COVID-19, ______ has been like therapy for me.” These are their top responses:
What’s Been “Like Therapy” For Them
- Talking to family / friends
- Watching TV / movies / Netflix / YouTube
- Video/ mobile games
- Art and crafts
- Food / beverages
- Weed/ marijuana
- Cooking / baking
- Alone time
Music is the number one thing that young people say has been “like therapy” for them during COVID-19. Our State of Mind research also found that 59% of 13-39-year-olds say they’ve been taking care of their mental health by listening to music, making it the top activity they report doing for mental wellness, and more than half say they’ve made playlists for when they are stressed and sad in the past year. Those playlists aren’t always full of happy and upbeat songs. According to wild nonfiction research, many Americans use music playlists to purposely feel darker moods and fulfill a desire for “emotional realism,” citing Spotify playlists titles like “Now excuse me I need to go take a shower so I can’t tell if I’m crying.” Using music to get in touch with their feelings is likely a major reason Gen Z and Millennials have viewed it as therapeutic.
Music isn’t the only media on the list. Watching TV, movies, Netflix, or YouTube is the 5th top thing that young people say has been “like therapy for them.” Last year, YPulse’s trend research Content Cure explored how Gen Z and Millennials have begun to use the media in their lives as an emotional tool, tuning into specific shows, videos, movies and more as an intentional mood-altering fix—and we’ve found that they’re intentionally using content as a mood-salve more than ever. Young consumers are even more likely to say that they are using TV shows and videos as medicine to treat their different moods during this time, with 74% now reporting they do so compared to 65% in 2019.
The ranking is also filled with activities that have helped Gen Z and Millennials get through 2020: like exercise, playing video games, art, crafts, and, of course, cooking and baking. Stress baking was one of the biggest food trends of the year, with break trending on social platforms and flour selling out in stores. Our Comfort in the Kitchen trend research found that 78% of young people agree: “Cooking has a positive impact on my mental health.” We also found that those young people who are cooking more this year don’t plan to slow down post-COVID. But food has been a comfort in other ways as well: food and beverages are number 10 on the list of things that have been “like therapy” for them, and YPulse’s research shows that stress eating has actually had a massive impact on Gen Z and Millennials food habits and routines this year.
We also have to note that weed/marijuana made this top ranking of things that Gen Z and Millennials say have been “like therapy.” Marijuana also made the top 20 ranking of things that young consumers told us they couldn’t live without during quarantines, and more recently made the top 20 ranking of the top things young people are doing for fun on an average night post-COVID. Young consumers have long fueled the mainstreaming of weed use—and been more likely to support its legalization. This year, marijuana has been an escape and, clearly, a stress reliever for many. In fact, YPulse’s data shows that marijuana use has increased during this year, with the number who say they never use it decreasing by 12 points, and the number who say they use it daily more than quadrupling.