Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

U.S. Surgeon General, Matthew McConaughey talk loneliness epidemic at UT stop of ‘We Are Made to Connect’ tour

Kevin Kim
Dr. Vivek Murphy (left) and Matthew McConaughey (right) speak about college students’ mental health as a part of the U.S. Surgeon General’s College Tour on Nov. 8, 2023.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy stopped by the Forty Acres on Wednesday for his “We Are Made to Connect” college tour, promoting the value of strengthening relationships in the midst of a “loneliness epidemic.” Murthy held the talk with actor and UT Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey to explore points expanded on in The Surgeon General’s Advisory on Our Epidemic of Loneliness.

While not initially on his list of issues to tackle during his first appointment as Surgeon General under the Obama Administration, Murthy said the issue of loneliness became clear to him after several college visits, including one to UT in 2015. 

“That wasn’t just true of UT, I started to hear (about students’ struggles) in colleges everywhere, all around the country,” Murthy said. “I’m really grateful to the folks here at UT for helping me realize just how powerful an issue that was.”

 In the discussion, Murthy and McConaughey drew on their personal experiences in medicine and film, respectively. As a physician, Murthy said patient sentiments toward the end of their lives were remarkably consistent.

“At the end of our lives, only the most meaningful threads of our existence remain,” Murthy said. “What floats to the top are our relationships. We don’t have to wait until the end of our life to realize that we can start right now.”

Exploring strategies to mitigate isolation and build connection, the pair touched on the need for a clear sense of self and personal values. McConaughey said he finds it easier to start with elimination.

“Eliminate the (negative) things, the people, the places in my life and even thought patterns,” McConaughey said. “By sheer mathematics, you end up with more of what will feed you and what does serve you.”

Transitioning into speaking about social pressures, Murthy said valuing relationships above academic and career achievements can lead to redefining success.

“We are better in everything we do when we are anchored to the people that we love, the people we care about,” Murthy said.

Giving students action items at the end of the discussion, Murthy introduced his 5-for-5 Connection Challenge, which encourages students to do five things that promote connection for five days. 

As the event concluded, President Jay Hartzell presented Murthy with a customized Longhorn football jersey to go along with the baseball cap Murthy was given in 2015 on his first visit.

Drawn to the event by her own experience with loneliness, advertising senior Daniela Woodin said coming to UT as a CAP student, compounded by the pandemic, made making friends difficult. 

“I think something like this would have been so helpful (during sophomore year),” Woodin said. “It’s so important to learn about this and get the opportunity to meet other people. I feel like human connection is really everything.”

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