The use of a companion robot to improve depression symptoms in a community-dwelling older adult during the coronavirus disease 2019 state of emergency

Fujita Med J. 2023 Feb;9(1):47-51. doi: 10.20407/fmj.2021-023. Epub 2022 May 25.


Objective: We investigated the impact of using a companion robot on the mental state of a community-dwelling older adult who was receiving home-visit rehabilitation services during the state of emergency for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Methods: This case involved an 80-year-old woman with compression fractures of lumbar vertebrae 1 and 2. Her medical history included hypothyroidism, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and depression. The companion robot used was Smibi®, a healing baby robot that responds in various ways depending on how the user interacts with it. The patient interacted (e.g., hugging, conversing) with Smibi® for 30 minutes per day for 1 month, from April 2020 (immediately before the declaration of a state of emergency in Japan) to May 2020. The patient was evaluated with the Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS) before and after using Smibi®.

Results: The SDS score decreased from 37 points to 26 points after the use of Smibi®. The items related to diurnal variation, sleep, despair about the future, and dissatisfaction decreased by 2-3 points.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that interacting with Smibi® may improve depression in older adults who have been forced to refrain from going out due to the spread of COVID-19. Future studies with long-term follow-up and large sample sizes are required to confirm the effectiveness of companion robots in improving depression among community-dwelling older adults.

Keywords: Companion robot; Depression; Novel coronavirus pandemic; State of emergency.