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  • Vivek Murthy and Alice Chen

Better Together: Seeking Your Stories

Dear Friends,

It has been over three months since we released Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. In the midst of the COVID19 pandemic, the book and its message about the consequences of loneliness and power of human connection has become more relevant than ever. It has inspired us to start this newsletter - Better Together - as a way to have an ongoing conversation with you about how we manage this moment and come out more fulfilled and deeply connected than ever.


We’ve been most grateful to hear from so many of you recently with your reflections on the book. A high school teacher shared that the book made her wonder if many of the challenges her students have struggled with for years, from depression to violence, were related to loneliness. A mother told us that the book’s emphasis on service as an antidote to loneliness made her decide to cultivate a habit of service in her sons. And another reader who has been in COVID19 quarantine for months came to see that using this time to focus on helping one another was a way to enjoy much needed human connection during this difficult pandemic. So many people - teachers, doctors, grandparents, and college students - have taken the time to write and share how they have drawn comfort and strength from recognizing that loneliness is a common human experience.


For the two of us, we have the great fortune of sharing our pandemic stay-at-home days with four generations of family in the house Vivek grew up in. As all our professional work now happens at home, our two young children show up on countless Zoom meetings as they climb into our laps to wave at strangers. Like many parents of young kids, we troubleshoot sibling tussles, manage potty training misadventures, and participate in Lincoln Log play sessions when we are in the middle of a work call or project. It is a new experience of combining work and family that is both a challenge and a blessing.


Thanks to the modern technology of video chats, we often see Alice’s family across the country, but it’s hard not seeing them in person. We find ourselves connecting with friends over fleeting phone calls instead of shared meals and visits.


All of us are bonded together by this unsettling year. We may be in different boats, but we are in the same storm. This moment has pushed many of us to re-examine what we want post-pandemic life to look like. For the two of us, it has become clear that we want to design a life that centers more around people. If COVID19 has revealed anything, it’s that our relationships really, really matter.


Would you like to join us on this journey to build a more people-centered life and a people-centered world? A world that recognizes our relationships are what make us rich? Our family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers provide opportunities to experience laughter, compassion, generosity, and love. These are the forces that heal and make us whole. They are the values we want to build our lives around.



We would love your participation in shaping this conversation: What questions, topics, or challenges are coming up in your life around relationships and human connection? Tell us by responding directly in the comments.


Whether the hardship of this moment brings us closer together or pushes us further apart depends on the choices we make today, tomorrow, and the day after. Our goal is to choose togetherness. And our dream is to a build a community that can support one another in making this choice.


If you'd like to share these ideas with friends and family, you can forward them this newsletter and have them subscribe here.


Wishing you health, happiness, and joy,

Vivek and Alice

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21 Comments


Luisa Ashley
Luisa Ashley
Jun 26

Hi Dr Vivek! Thank you so much for finally recognizing that gun violence is a public health issue in our country it is so sad and so disgusting. My son was murdered 20 years ago by gun for no reason, by a criminal who should never have had a gun. I believe guns are evil, but what can we do to stop the insanity!?

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Jill Valentine
Jill Valentine
May 16

Dr. Murthy, I attended graduation at UNC in the School of Public Health. I very much appreciated and enjoyed your address. It was timely and delivered with humility and grace. I was a proud parent that day, and also felt honored to hear your words. Thank you for your message. I have committed myself to the 3 pillars you described in your address. Thank you again. It was an inspiring message.

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kendylmr
Oct 07, 2023

I really like your quote, from above. "Whether the hardship of this moment brings us closer together or pushes us further apart depends on the choices we make today, tomorrow, and the day after."


I have lost both parents ~ after caring for them in their time of need. I have honored them both. My children are busy with their lives, and I have one cherished grandson. The large family reunions have gone by the wayside since the great grandparents who had five kids passed away. Most of those aunts and uncles have passed away. I live alone, yet am never alone, and I am never lonely. Thirty years of prayer and sobriety will do that.


Therre are many that…


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Marshall L. Smith
Marshall L. Smith
Sep 01, 2023

Surgeon General Murthy,


I heard your participation on NPR’s Science Friday today concerning current trends in the loss of connection between people and loneliness. You mentioned the recent trends of voluntary agencies losing touch with people. I’d like to make you aware of my PhD dissertation “The Declining Effectiveness of Formal Voluntary Organizations” (FVO) completed in 1973 at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In it I concluded that this declining effectiveness is due to four variables:


  1. Declining membership rates

  2. Declining participation rates by either members or non-members

  3. Goals of FVOs have weakened thrusts for social integration of people with each other, as well as weakening social justice emphases.

  4. Shift in funding sources for FVOs such that both…


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cora.munoz3
Jul 21, 2023

Where can I get a copy of Dr Murthy’s brief audio on loneliness as I heard him in one conference session. Is it accessible to anyone?


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