Dr. Ruth Takes on Loneliness


Reading her [wartime childhood] diary now, Dr. Westheimer recognized the parallels between human sexual problems and struggles with loneliness. No one wants to admit to having trouble with intimacy, and no one wants to admit to not having enough friends.

Throughout the 1980s, when Dr. Westheimer gained national celebrity, the epidemic that carried the most stigma was AIDS. She addressed taboo topics like homosexuality and condom use, giving those who were being shunned and tormented much-needed information and compassion.

Her advice was easier to take, she determined, because it was offered by a “matronly woman” with a nonthreatening demeanor and a charming accent.

She wants to do the same stigma-bashing for loneliness. It just “makes sense,” she said.

So with the pain of her diary fresh in her mind, Dr. Westheimer reached out to State Senator Liz Krueger, a family friend. Encouraged by the U.K.’s appointment a few years earlier of a minister for loneliness, Senator Krueger wrote Governor Hochul a two-page letter, putting forward Dr. Westheimer as New York’s first Loneliness Ambassador.

ALLISON GILBERT, “Dr. Ruth Saved People’s Sex Lives. Now She Wants to Cure Loneliness,” NY Times, November 2023.