Socially Assistive Humanoid Robots: Effects on Depression and Health-Related Quality of Life among Low-Income, Socially Isolated Older Adults in South Korea

J Appl Gerontol. 2022 Nov 3;7334648221138283. doi: 10.1177/07334648221138283. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Using a mixed-method study design, we examined the effects of a socially assistive humanoid robot (SAHR), called Hyodol, on depressive symptoms and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of low-income, socially isolated older adults (N = 180). Quantitative outcomes were assessed at baseline (before Hyodol deployment) and at 3 and 6 months after baseline. Results showed reduced depressive symptoms and improved HRQOL at 3 months; however, these positive effects did not extend to 6 months. Ten focus group participants perceived Hyodol to be a valuable companion especially during the COVID outbreak. These results suggest that while Hyodol may have provided companionship for some low-income, socially isolated older adults during home confinement, its effects on depression and HRQOL were limited. Further research is needed to assess long-term effects of SAHRs as appropriate tools for reducing social isolation and improving behavioral health among community-dwelling older adults.

Keywords: South Korea; depression; quality of life; social isolation; socially assistive humanoid robots.