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Top 20 Things Gen Z & Millennials Are Doing for Their Mental Health

We asked Gen Z and Millennials what they’re doing to combat anxiety and stress during the ongoing pandemic—these are their top answers…


It’s no secret that COVID had a massive impact on young people’s mental health. Recent news headlines report that as the pandemic rages on, much of their mental health is worsening and YPulse’s State of Mind trend report found that 54% of 13-39-year-olds say their mental health has been negatively impacted by Coronavirus. We told you about some of their biggest worries during this time—and some of the ways they’ve been taking care of their mental state.

But our State of Mind trend research also asked Gen Z and Millennials “What is an activity you do to improve / maintain your mental health?” as an open-end question, to see what activities they’re turning to keep their mental health in balance in their own words—without our preconceived notions getting in the way.  Their top responses show us the many things that young consumers consider a part of their mental wellness–and what they will continue to rely on going forward:

Activities They’re Doing to Improve / Maintain Their Mental Health

Among 13-39-year-olds

  1. Exercise
  2. Meditation
  3. Read
  4. Walking
  5. Listen to music
  6. Play sports
  7. Running
  8. Yoga
  9. Art / Crafts
  10. Play video/computer games
  11. Sleep
  12. Puzzles / Brain Training
  13. Eat healthy
  14. Watch TV / Movies
  15. Play games
  16. Relaxing
  17. Journaling / Writing
  18. Counseling / Therapy 
  19. Talk to friends/family
  20.  Pray

While some more traditional mental health treatments are on the ranking—with counseling/therapy at number 18—the list is mostly full of activities that previous generations might have considered pastimes or hobbies. But for Gen Z and Millennials, these outlets are a part of their mental wellness routines.

Exercise is the most common response to the question “What is an activity you do to improve / maintain your mental health?” In fact, exercise was the top activity for both Gen Z and Millennials. While some of young consumers’ health-consciousness relaxed during the pandemic, at-home workouts boomed, and here we see how much they’ve relied on exercise to keep mental balance. Beyond the general “exercise” response, the top 20 list is filled with physical activities that young consumers consider mental health maintenance, including walking, playing sports, running, and yoga. Our health and fitness report found that 42% of 13-39-year-olds are working out regularly to relieve stress or frustration, while 41% are doing so to improve their mental healthso exercise was already a mental wellness tool for many pre-pandemic. It’s likely the last year has cemented its role as not just physical but emotional fitness.

Interestingly, meditation was the second most common response. Some might be surprised by the number of young consumers who have tried mediation and mindfulness: Our research found that 32% of 13-39-year-olds have meditated regularly in the last year to combat anxiety, and 33% are interested in trying it. Meditation apps saw a major boost last year, and a third of young consumers tell us they have downloaded one. In the last year, many brands created have resources to support young people’s mental health. Brands should also know that 36% of young consumers believe that employers should be providing access to mindfulness / meditation training at work to help combat burnout among their employees.

A few other items on the list prove young people are turning to media not only for entertainment, but also as a way to soothe their anxieties. Listening to music, playing video games, and watching TV/movies are all considered ways to help or improve their mental health. The Content Cure trend was bolstered by the pandemic: We found that the number of young consumers who say they use TV shows or videos like medicine to treat their different moods increased from 65% in 2019 to 74% in 2020. YPulse’s music report found that 44% of 13-39-year-olds agree: “COVID-19 and quarantines have changed the way I listen to music.” . Additionally, young consumers are combining their mental health activities, with nearly half of young consumers (46%) citing that they listen to music while they exercise. 

As lockdowns start to ease up, young consumers’ anxieties won’t suddenly disappear. They will still be turning to these activities as they continue to cope with their stress and worries—and it could be an opportunity to understand how your brand can connect with a pastime they consider essential to mental health.

YPulse Business users can access the full State of Mind report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.