In a move that is as ridiculous as it is a waste of taxpayer money, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has appointed Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a renowned sex therapist and media personality, the state’s very first “Ambassador to Loneliness.”
This utterly useless initiative supposedly aims to address growing concerns about social isolation and loneliness that were exacerbated by the reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and an increasingly disconnected society.
The announcement was made on Thursday.
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that she has appointed Dr. Ruth Westheimer as the nation’s first Ambassador to Loneliness. In accepting the honorary title, the iconic talk show host pledged to help New Yorkers of all ages address the growing issue of social isolation, which is associated with multiple physical and mental health issues, including cognitive decline, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disorders, weakened immunity, Alzheimer’s disease, and premature death.
“As New York works to fight the loneliness epidemic, some help from honorary Ambassador Ruth Westheimer may be just what the doctor ordered,” Governor Hochul said. “Dr. Ruth Westheimer has offered her services to help older adults and all New Yorkers cope with the loneliness epidemic and I will be appointing her to serve as the nation’s first state-level honorary Ambassador to Loneliness. Studies show individuals experiencing loneliness had a 32 percent higher risk of dying early and we need leaders like Dr. Ruth to help address this critical component of our mental health crisis.”
The choice of Dr. Ruth, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor who rose to fame as a talk show host and author is rife with symbolism. Her personal history of experiencing the Holocaust and loneliness first-hand would bring a unique perspective to the issue.
In her announcement, Hochul highlighted the seriousness of the loneliness epidemic.
More than a third of adults 45 or older experience loneliness, with nearly a quarter of adults 65 or older considered socially isolated, a recent study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found. Loneliness is defined as the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact, while social isolation refers to a lack of social connections.
Social isolation significantly increased the risk of premature death from all causes, the study found, rivaling the risk posed by other detrimental health conditions or behaviors, including smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Social isolation has been associated with an approximately 50 percent increased risk of developing dementia, while poor social relationships– characterized by social isolation or loneliness– have been associated with a 29 percent increased risk of heart disease and a 32 percent increased risk of stroke.
The appointment aligns with the state’s broader efforts to develop age-friendly communities and a robust mental health care system. It is part of New York’s Master Plan for Aging, which is intended to help New Yorkers live healthy and fulfilling lives while they age with dignity and independence.
While the problems that Hochul highlights are real – loneliness has been an issue nationwide for years – the government is not the solution. In reality, the state actually contributed to the problem of loneliness in large part because it imposed onerous lockdown restrictions on the populace amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Moreover, loneliness is a societal issue brought about by numerous factors. The advent of technology that allows us to interact without being in the same room could be a contributor especially affecting younger generations.
In the end, this government initiative will only waste more taxpayer funds without actually doing anything to solve the problem. The state is not equipped to foster better relationships between people and their friends and families. This is yet another way for the government to expand itself while offering nothing in the way of substance.