News & Insights

Audio therapy: How listening to digital audio helps people de-stress

You've heard of comfort food—but how about comfort playlists?

Recent studies reveal that music can help curb negative emotions like anxiety, restlessness, or nervousness.1 Meanwhile, Spotify's own research shows that one-third of UK listeners play music to "relax or de-stress"2 Today, people need an outlet for relaxation more than ever. Facing issues like the pandemic, the macroeconomic environment, and geopolitical uncertainty, the world is feeling increasingly stressed.3

Below, we dig into research around how Spotify listeners use audio content as a much-needed distraction from troublesome times—and how brands can use digital audio ads to build positive associations in a trusted space.

Increased cost of living beginning to make an impact

According to research from July 2022, nearly 80% of Spotify ad-supported listeners said their cost of living had increased. Overall, more than three-quarters (76%) of respondents were most price-conscious about food/groceries, up from 70% in Q4 2021, while 72% were concerned with the cost of utilities and 48% with the cost of transportation. On top of that, 43% of Spotify ad-supported listeners spent less money on out-of-home entertainment through April, May, and June 2022.4

While the volatile economy might mean that brands (and advertisers) are in for a bumpy ride over the next few months, there's historical evidence that companies can thrive even in turbulent times: Disney was founded at the start of the Great Depression, Microsoft in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, and Airbnb during the 2008 financial fiasco. In other words: There's plenty of opportunity even in a challenging economy—especially for companies that are able to harness the sentimental power of digital audio in their branding and advertising.

At home with audio: A much-needed escape

Audio creates a safe space where people can fully immerse themselves to tune out the noise around them. Since the early days of the pandemic, many listeners have turned to Spotify to decompress by listening to health and fitness podcasts, "chill" tracks, and classical music.5 Compared to social media brands:

  • 27%

    more listeners see Spotify as a "stress-free space".6

  • 26%

    more listeners turn to Spotify "to get away from reality and be in [their] own bubble".6

  • 56%

    of listeners use Spotify "to evoke nostalgia".6

All these positive feelings bode well for brands. The high level of engagement displayed by Spotify users transfers to ads via a "halo effect," which results in a more positive perception of brands—especially those who are able to demonstrate empathy, and indicate some level of corporate and social responsibility. Globally, Millennials account for 25% and Gen Z 34% of our ad-supported listeners7, and it’s important to younger audiences that brands align with their core values in order to consider making a purchase8.

  • 69%

    of listeners are "open to seeing/hearing advertising" on Spotify.6

  • 75%

    of UK listeners "trust the content Spotify selects for them"—music, brands or adverts.6

  • 97%

    of content engagement on Spotify is transferred directly into ad engagement.6

With audio ads, context counts

When people rely on audio to help them de-stress, the last thing they need is a reminder of anxiety-inducing events. What they need is to feel good. That's why many listeners use Spotify, any why—when it comes to advertising—it's important to match your creative audio to the context in which it'll be heard, all while maintaining an empathetic tone.

Delivering messages that are relevant to the content listeners are consuming creates a more cohesive experience. It also allows them to stay in the moment. Promoting your brand within a wellness podcast? Consider creating an ad that reflects that same uplifting mood. Running a promotion in a relaxing playlist? Be sure to select music that's just as chill.

In a trusted space that's free of bad news and negative distractions, aim to deliver positive ad messaging with potential to boost a listener's mood—and their opinion of your brand.

Want to learn more about the value of audio advertising? Read about Spotify's self-serve ad manager, Ad Studio, and how it can help you connect with listeners.


  1. "Music therapy for stress reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis," Health Psychology Review. March 2020
  2. "Global Web Index, Spotify ad-supported listeners." April 2022, UK
  3. "World Unhappier, More Stressed Out Than Ever," Gallup. June 2022
  4. "Global Web Index, Spotify ad-supported listeners." July 2022, UK
  5. "3 ways people are turning to audio while social distancing," Spotify
  6. "Press Play," MTM-Spotify Custom Research. 2022, UK
  7. Spotify Internal Data, MAU Trend by Demo, 2022
  8. “Do Your Brand's Values Align With Those of Gen Z?” CMSWire, August 2022

Looking for something a little more custom? Let's talk.