Cognitive Science, Design Thinking Ommie is a robot that was created to support mental health in people who suffer from anxiety through deep breathing practices for anxiety reduction. The Prevalence of Anxiety in Society Anxiety levels are on the rise around the world. A CDC study showed that 25.5% of American adults exhibited anxiety disorder […]23 Nov 2023
Social Robots Can Be Used in the Treatment of Anxiety
April 23, 2023
Cognitive Science, Design Thinking
Ommie is a robot that was created to support mental health in people who suffer from anxiety through deep breathing practices for anxiety reduction.
The Prevalence of Anxiety in Society
Anxiety levels are on the rise around the world. A CDC study showed that 25.5% of American adults exhibited anxiety disorder symptoms, a number that was three times higher than in the past year. The same survey revealed that 31.9% of adolescents have had an anxiety disorder, and this rate increases to 37.4% for college-age adolescents.
The Benefits of Using Social Robots
The study was performed with two participant cohorts: a wellness cohort and an anxiety cohort. The wellness cohort consisted of 21 participants aged between 18 – 38 years old. The anxiety cohort consisted of 22 participants recruited through a wellness center and who were working with a therapist or doctor on anxiety reduction.
Interacting with Ommie resulted in a significant reduction in anxiety levels, and participants found the robot intuitive, approachable, and engaging. Participants also reported feelings of focus and companionship when using the robot. These results show promise in the robot’s
capacity for supporting mental health.
Extra Benefits of Using Social Robots
The focusing experience was an unexpected benefit in addition to the calming effect. It was hypothesized that participants with no anxiety would be impervious to the robot’s guidance; however, participants from varying anxiety levels among both cohorts reported the focusing effect.
“The study showed that our robot is easy to use and generates an approachable, engaging, and calming experience with measurable anxiety state reduction.”
“Additionally, Ommie provides elements of focus, companionship, and guidance relevant to building a regular deep breathing practice.”
“Social robots have the capacity to help solve some of these challenges by providing distributed and consistent coaching, monitoring, compliance support, and companionship”.
I am very excited about the research into non-medical alternatives to treat mental health issues. Social robots could prove to be reliable companions to those who need the most support, and as a learning support teacher in middle school I see how big a problem anxiety can be for adolescents, so any research breakthrough in this field is very welcome!—Shekufeh
Matheus, K., Vázquez, M., & Scassellati, B. (2022). A Social Robot for Anxiety Reduction via Deep Breathing. 2022 31st IEEE International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN), 89-94.