As Anxiety Over Coronavirus Grows, Meditation Apps See a Spike in Downloads

Headspace is also giving away free subscriptions to healthcare workers

Meditation apps have seen a spike in use since the coronavirus pandemic began. Getty Images
Headshot of Diana Pearl

Key insights:

We’re living in unprecedented times, and with it has brought unprecedented anxiety.
People are looking for ways to calm down in the comfort of their own home, and meditation apps that provide guided meditation to users wherever they live are seeing a spike in downloads.
Apple’s App Store is currently featuring a Guided Meditation section on its homepage, encouraging users to “find time for self-care.” Calm, a meditation app, is the second most-downloaded health and fitness app in the store, while Headspace, another mediation app, is sixth.

While meditation apps haven’t seen the lift that other apps have—Zoom, the video conferencing app, for example, is currently the number one free app in the App Store—there have been significant bumps. According to App Annie, a program that tracks app downloads, Breethe has jumped up 31 spots in the health and fitness rankings over the last week to 40th, while BetterMe, another meditation app, leapt 70 spots up to 26th.
Lynne Goldberg, co-founder of Breethe, said the app started seeing an uptick in downloads and consumer interest within the past few days—particularly after President Donald Trump first put the European travel ban into place. It’s also increased activity for current users. In a similar timeframe, Deborah Hyun, vp of global marketing at Headspace, said that the number of people who have completed the “Stressed” meditation has grown 13-fold compared to the previous 30 days, and nine times more people have finished the “Reframing Anxiety” at-home workout.
Knowing that they’re serving a particularly necessary purpose at this moment, these apps are also adjusting their brand communications and creating new programs to serve an increase in demand. During the coronavirus pandemic, Headspace is offering access to its app (which normally runs $12.99 a month) for free to healthcare professionals.

“Our healthcare system is facing immense pressure amid the COVID-19 outbreak and, in particular, we’re seeing incredible stress, anxiety and burnout among healthcare workers,” said Hyun. “It’s crucial for us to find ways to support our healthcare workers’ mental health and provide them with tools for managing the very real personal toll this crisis takes on them in particular.”
Headspace has curated a collection of premium content, called Weathering the Storm, which is “specifically curated to help people around the world reduce their stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Hyun. Headspace is also creating resources to educate teachers and caregivers on how to talk to children about anxiety.
Similarly, Goldberg said that Breethe put together a Coronavirus Anxiety Package that offers meditations that cater specifically to the anxieties that the coronavirus may be bubbling up, such as financial worries or fear of loneliness. Breethe has made those programs free for the duration of the pandemic. Goldberg also said companies have reached out to Breethe asking them to help educate their employees on meditation and how it can be a helpful tool.
“We really try to give real life solutions to real life problems,” said Goldberg. “So this is something that we feel we can really help people specifically with whatever it is that they’re experiencing.”
In Breethe’s brand communications, particularly its newsletter, Goldberg said the app is choosing to focus on the positive, and keep an optimistic tone. “If we choose to focus on the negativity and the fear, then that’s what we’re going to be enveloped in,” she said.
Of course, for any business that’s found itself facing more demand in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a delicate balance to strike when providing a service to an increased audience while not taking advantage of a crisis.
“Our intention is not to profit off of something like this,” said Goldberg. “Our intention is really to make content that’s available to people that can help calm them available as widely as possible.”


@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.