Dr. Ruth Named New York’s First Loneliness Ambassador
Renowned sex therapist embarks on campaign to address loneliness and find solutions.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer has been appointed New York’s first Loneliness Ambassador. Her goal is to combat loneliness epidemic in the United States, and globally. Gov. Kathy Hochul created the role at Dr. Westheimer’s request. The 95-year-old pledged to counsel New Yorkers of all ages on addressing loneliness and isolation. She is expected to speak to groups and help the state’s efforts to battle mental health problems.
The Governor told the New York Times:
“Dr. Ruth Westheimer has offered her services to help older adults and all New Yorkers cope with the loneliness epidemic,” the governor said in a statement sent after the meeting, “and I will be appointing her to serve as the nation’s first state-level honorary Ambassador to Loneliness. We need leaders like Dr. Ruth to help address this critical component of our mental health crisis.”
Loneliness was already a problem before the pandemic, but has reached epidemic proportions. In May, the United States surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, issued an official advisory, warning that isolation can be just as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and poses a greater risk to longevity than being sedentary or obese. Social isolation and poor relationships are associated with multiple physical and mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disorders, cognitive decline, weakened immunity. Lonely people are 32% more likely to succumb to an early death.
Memories of childhood loneliness as a Holocaust survivor were brought to the forefront after spending 90 days in a rehabilitation facility to recover from a small stroke. She recently returned to her Manhattan apartment where she has lived for 60 years.
“The first thing to do is have the courage to admit you’re lonely, then you can do something about it...I am deeply honored and promised the Governor that I will work day and night to help New Yorkers feel less lonely!" she said in a statement. "The key to working through any hardship is to continually embark on new projects and to help others. But being busy isn’t enough to keep loneliness at bay, Dr. Westheimer warned — it is ‘meaningful busyness’ that is critical.”