I’ve really tried to meditate. I know it would probably be good for me! But no matter how much I tried (and if my therapist asks, I definitely tried), I couldn’t make the habit stick. So I gave up. And I’m not alone: over the past two years, fewer and fewer people have been using meditation apps like Calm and Headspace, according to some new data from app research firm Apptopia.
User sessions at the top 10 meditation apps in the United States peaked in the first half of 2020. That’s not a huge surprise — at the time, we were dealing with the emergence of a global pandemic that upended life around the world and fundamentally changed people’s day-to-day routines. But usage has been steadily falling since then, according to the report. The number of sessions on the Calm app fell 26.4 percent between July 2021 and July 2022. It was worse for Headspace, which had a 60.3 percent drop over the same time period.
There’s some possible reasons for this trend. Companies pushed meditation apps as a solution to the soaring levels of stress and mental health challenges people faced early in the pandemic. But now, people aren’t at home for long stretches of time the same way they were at the start of the pandemic and might have less time or interest in meditating.
Pandemic aside, there’s also been some big shifts in politics in the past few years. Meditation app usage first started to climb after Donald Trump became president and started to fall around the time Joe Biden was sworn into office. Of course — as the report notes, and as Verge readers know well — correlation is not causation. So we’re not going to draw any conclusions from that particular trend, but it does raise an eyebrow.
In some ways, meditation apps are a symptom of the huge demand for mental health treatment in the US. There are long waiting lists for traditional mental health services, and it’s often prohibitively difficult for people to find affordable and accessible therapists. In recent years, tech companies have started capitalizing on this demand, offering services that they say can fill that gap. Meditation apps are a small segment of this bigger trend, with companies like Talkspace and Ginger also marketing themselves as mental health solutions. We can’t expect mental health apps to go away anytime soon, but the new data hints that — at least for now — they’re not taking over as a long-term solution.