In Behavioral Health, College Students as a Population, Health and Healthcare Disparities, Motivational Interviewing, Podcasts, Professional Development, Public Health, Recovery, Self Care, Technology Implementation, Telehealth

Listen to a Podcast: It’s good for your brain!

Listen to a Podcast: It’s good for your brain!

Who Listens to Podcasts and Why Do They Listen?

According to Statista, 55% of consumers in the U.S. above the age of 12 years listened to audio podcasts in 2020, up 4% from 2019 (Statista 2019). If that figure surprises you, the U.S. actually does not lead the world in podcast listening (Winn, 2020). That distinction belongs to South Korea, followed by Spain, Sweden, Australia, and the United States.

The number one reason given by respondents for listening to non-musical podcasts was “to learn new things,” with 74% citing this as the reason for enjoying podcasts. Other reasons for podcast listening on a regular basis were for entertainment, to relax, or to be inspired (“Main reasons for using podcasts in the U.S. 2019,” 2019). Mobile applications on portable electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets are used by 65% of podcast listeners (Edison Research, n.d.). In addition, 32% of Americans listen to podcasts on a monthly basis, with 82.4% spending more than seven hours each week tuning in to podcases (Discover the Best Podcasts | Discover Pods | Find your next favorite podcast, n.d.) . An amazing 90% listen to podcasts at home, while others listen while driving or on walks. Most people (7 out of 10) listen without doing anything else and the rest multitask, doing housework, driving, or cooking while listening. Weekly podcast listeners subscribe to an average of six podcasts and listen to seven shows each week (Edison Research, 2019). The age of monthly podcast listeners versus US population (Infinite Dial, 2020):

    • 12-34: 48% (vs 37%)
    • 35-54: 32% (vs 40%)
    • 55+: 20% (vs 23%)

More information about podcasters, why, and how they listen is available in this 2019 Podcast Stats & Facts Infographic from

A picture containing graphical depictions of 2019 US podcast statistics: 51% of US population has listened to a podcast. 49% of podcast listening is done at home. 22% of listening is done in the car. Podcast listeners are loyal, affluent & educated. 80% listen to all or most of each podcast episode and listes to an average of 7 shows per week. 44% of podcast listeners are women; 56% are men.

Why Are Podcasts So Popular?

Podcasts are quickly taking over where traditional radio shows left off. The appeal of podcasts is easy to understand because they are ultimately available through the use of easy to use technology and they are tailored to any interests. By May 2021, over two million podcasts with over 48 million episodes were available to stream directly into your earbuds and speakers ( If learning new things, relaxing, being entertained, and getting inspired are not enough to pique your interest, then how about stimulating your brain? In 2016 researchers at UC Berkley published a study that revealed what happened to the brains of subjects who listened to hours of narrative stories (Huth et al., 2016). Prior to the study, other studies only examined a few stimulus conditions and there was no study that revealed semantic information within the entire semantic system of the brain in a comprehensive way. Looking at neuroimaging brain models showing the brains response to listening to two hours of spoken narrative stories, researchers found a symmetry in semantic representation across both cerebral hemispheres. This finding is different from previous studies that found semantic representation localized to the left hemisphere. The implication is that listening to podcasts is quite similar to listening to narratives, which can stimulate many parts of the brain. Listening to different types of podcasts, such as meditation, comedies, or crime thrillers, will also activate different areas of the brain. Thus, meditation podcasts should cause the release of dopamine that sooths us; crime thrillers cause the release of adrenaline and endorphins that excite us and make us feel good, and comedies activate the frontal lobe and cerebral cortex and reduce levels of cortisol to lower stress and anxiety (Mallach, 2020).

Other reasons for the popularity of listening to podcasts are outlined in Why Do People Listen to Podcasts in 2021? Some of the reasons listed include “To Get Over a Creative Block,” “To Stay Informed About Current Events,” and “ To Improve Wellbeing.” Along with recommendations for appropriate podcasts for accomplishing these goals are a few key words that will help with further searches for appropriate podcasts (Fang, 2020).

Exciting New podcast Series from CASAT

Some of our readers might already be familiar with the Telehealth Learning Series for Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment and Recovery Support Providers on Apple Podcasts. The Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) Network, the Center for Excellence on Protected Health Information (CoE-PHI), the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers, and the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies (CASAT) at the University of Nevada – Reno (UNR) partnered to host this 8-part national online discussion and resource sharing opportunity for substance use disorder (SUD) treatment providers and peer support specialists faced with transitioning their services to the use of telephone and videoconferencing methods in response to COVID-19 social distancing. Or you may be a fan of the CASAT Podcast Network’s Lions and Tigers and Bears MI! on Spotify, where Motivational Interviewing Network Trainers Amy Shanahan and Paul Warren discuss “the intricacies of the MI spirit, intentionality, evoking change talk, and reveal what MI is not.” If you are a student, you might be aware of the Pack Chats Podcast, also on Spotify. Each episode includes candid conversations with students at the University of Nevada, Reno about “subjects that college students deal with but rarely get talked about.” Soon, the CASAT Podcast Network will include an all new Podcast series, CASAT Conversations, that will be a resource for exploring a variety of behavioral health topics. Each season will explore how our environment, behaviors, and actions impact our health and wellbeing. The Season 1 podcast is for families and intimate partners of front-line staff and first responders. Led by Dr. Trudy Gilbert-Eliot, listeners will learn “educational tips, stress management techniques, and ways to build resilience within the family” with episodes that include first person stories of family members and front-line staff who have lived experiences to share. A new page has been added to CASAT OnDemand for CASAT Conversations. Visit the CASAT Conversations page to learn more about the upcoming episodes for Season 1: Behind the Front-Line: Supporting the Families of Front-Line Staff and First Responders. A small peek at additional Season 1 episode topics for front-line staff and their families will include:

  • Sleep, shift work, and being on call
  • Peer Support: Don’t make it weird
  • Critical care for yourself
  • Keeping your relationship strong under pressure

Stay tuned and check back often as this exciting new resource evolves!

To view resources, links, and Learning Labs related to the upcoming and future seasons of CASAT Conversations, visit the CASAT OnDemand Resources tab. For blog posts related to a variety of behavioral health topics, visit the Catalyst blog page.

Are you a “Podcaster?” Do you have favorites that you listen to on a regular basis? Please share your thoughts on podcasts in the comments.


(n.d.). Discover the Best Podcasts | Discover Pods | Find your next favorite podcast.

(n.d.). Edison Research.

Fang, W. (2020, December 4). Why do people listen to podcasts in 2021? Listen Notes.

Huth, A., de Heer, W., Griffiths, T. et al. Natural speech reveals the semantic maps that tile human cerebral cortex. Nature 532, 453–458 (2016).

Main reasons for using podcasts in the U.S. 2019. (2019, February 15). Statista.

Mallach, H. (2020, September 22). Why listening to podcasts is good for your brain. Good Housekeeping.

U.S. consumers who listen to audio podcasts 2020. (2020, March 23). Statista.

Winn, R. (2020, April 21). 2020 podcast stats & facts (New research from Apr 2020). Podcast Insights®.

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