55% of Americans turn to TV to destress

New survey results from streaming service Philo show that more than half of Americans find something comforting about tuning into their go-to TV shows and movies during times of stress and anxiety.

In a survey of 2,000 adults conducted for Philo by OnePoll, 55% said they watch TV as a self-soothing technique. That’s more than those who said they turn to yoga (33%) or taking a bath (42%).

And many (56%) turn to “comfort” shows or movies that they’ve seen or watch regularly, on average having watched about 18 different times.  Around 22% of survey respondents said they seek out comfort TV most when they’re feeling stressed, 20% when feeling anxious, and another 22% turn to regularly watched content when they’re bored.

It looks as though twice as many in the Northeast turn to comfort TV than Americans in the West, at 68% and 36% respectively. The figure for Americans who watch TV to destress also included 59% in the Southeast and 55% in the Midwest.  

Similar to the comfort-seekers, 55% of survey respondents said they watch TV and movies to relax.

So what do you people like to watch when they’re stressed? Maybe somewhat surprisingly, people don’t always turn to your typical feel-good flicks. The most popular genre was dramas at 22%, including historical shows and movies, crime procedurals and doctor shows. (Season 23 of "Law and Order: SVU" anyone?)

The second most popular overall are thrillers, including horror, mystery and disaster movies, at 16%. Thrillers were the most popular genre for Gen-Xers ages 42-57 at 19%.

Baby boomers, meanwhile, were the most likley to pick comedies, movies and sitcoms, with a quarter opting for those categories. Millennials between ages 26-41 pick dramas 25% of the time.

Philo added some commentary from neuroscientist Dr. Natalie King as to why watching favorite shows and movies might help people destress.

“It may have something to do with the reward centers in your brain, watching your favorite TV series can encourage the release of dopamine, which creates a sense of euphoria," King said. "Dopamine essentially says to the brain, 'You are enjoying this… Keep it up!”. 

And of course, Philo, a live streaming TV service, wants people to keep watching. In February the virtual MVPD signed its first original programming deal, inking an agreement with digital media company Kin.