By Olivia Lambert
A loneliness epidemic will become a huge crisis in the future and will be a public health issue as big as obesity.
Modern life and the way we rely on technology is what will isolate us from other human beings, a report suggests.
It sounds like the movie Her, where a man falls in love with an OS device, and it's not that far from reality. The Queensland University of Technology suggests robots could become our best friends and will be a cure for the loneliness epidemic.
The health issue is expected become a massive problem throughout the Western world by 2030, reports news.com.au.
Research from Brigham Young University in Utah discovered social connections with family and community reduced the risk of death by 50 per cent, but that could change the more we are seduced by technology.
"Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need," researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad told Cosmos magazine.
"It is crucial to both wellbeing and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment."
SOCIAL MEDIA CAUSING ENVY AND ISOLATION
While Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media sites connect us, they are actually driving us into a state of loneliness, according to research from the University of Pittsburgh.
The study said spending too much time on social media "may elicit feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier and more successful lives".
According to the study, people who use social media for more than two hours a day are twice as likely to feel social isolation than those who spend half an hour on social media.
Lifeline Australia says loneliness and isolation can affect a person's mental and physical health.
From being lonely people can feel aches and pains, headaches, depression, anxiety and paranoia.
It can also lead to having low energy and sleeping problems.
Loneliness also changes a person's appetite, causing them to eat more or less, resulting in weight loss and weight gain.
According to Lifeline Australia, those who are lonely drink more alcohol, take up smoking or start abusing medications and illegal drugs. Loneliness can ultimately lead to suicide.
In 2016 a Lifeline report found an alarming 82 per cent of Australians felt loneliness was increasing.
Lifeline chief executive Pete Shmigel said suicide deaths were at 10-year-high levels.
"For a society that is more technologically connected than we have ever been, these results suggest we're overlooking good old-fashioned care and compassion when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing," he said.
Mr Shmigel said many of those who said they often felt lonely lived with a partner or children.
A Relationships Australia 2017 study found more than a third of Australians felt like they often lacked companionship, and almost half said they sometimes felt left out.
The study also found more than a third of people often felt isolated.
WILL WE FALL IN LOVE WITH ROBOTS?
Queensland University of Technology suggests robot intimacy could be the cure for loneliness.
The university is exploring the option at Sunday's Robotronica event.
Art Centre Nabi, a museum in South Korea, humanises technology and is investigating how to make robots more like dogs. It's created a Robo-Panda, which expresses emotion in response to fairytales, anger, sadness, fear, disgust and joy.
Queensland University of Technology professor Ron Arkin believes robot companionship is likely the way of the future, but there are some problems that could arise from developing connections with robots.
"The advent of robots pose many risks to our future, and intimate robots is one of the top concerns," he said.
"Robots can foster attachments to artefacts that toys cannot due to their physical presence in the world and their ability to sense and act. Roboticists and designers can tap into the nature of human psychology to make people care about robots."
Prof Arkin said it was difficult to know what kind of impact robot intimacy would have on the world at the moment because of the stigma attached to robot sexuality.
"Robot intimacy will no doubt affect human-to-human relationships," he said.