Expert: Pursue Happiness Outdoors

It turns out that parents around the world are right: it is a good idea to get up from the couch, go outside, and enjoy nature. Marcia I. Pescador Jimenez, a Boston University assistant professor of epidemiology, has proof that doing so actually does make people happier and healthier.  

Ms. Jimenez shared her findings with the Loomis Chaffee community on Tuesday, April 19, during a convocation address and class visits, combining Loomis’ Earth Week focus and the school’s year-long theme of “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  

Ms. Jimenez’s current work focuses on the correlation between the cognitive health and development of children, adolescents, and adults and their proximity to green space. In studies using geographic data obtained from Google Street View along with deep learning algorithms, she and her team found that exposure to green space early in life promotes good health later in life. In addition, she said, there is a positive correlation between levels of green-space exposure and scores on cognition tests.   

“The data shows that living a long healthy life not only depends on the food that you eat or the exercise that you do, but also the actual geographic location of your home,” Ms. Jimenez said. “Go outside,” she urged the gathering. “This will have a huge, positive impact on your health and happiness as you grow older.”  

After the convocation, Ms. Jimenez visited psychology, environmental science, statistics, and biology classes, answering questions from students regarding her research and background.

Ms. Jimenez earned a doctorate from the Brown University School of Public Health and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cardiovascular disease and environmental epidemiology at the Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health.  

Ms. Jimenez’s visit was part of the Hubbard Speakers Series, made possible by a gift from Robert P. Hubbard ’47. 

The convocation was part of an ongoing series of activities on campus in celebration of Earth Week. The events kicked off last weekend with a film festival of environmental and outdoor adventure documentaries, a pancake breakfast with Loomis Chaffee-made maple syrup, and an opportunity to help paint an Earth Day-themed mural. Environmental writer David Rome ’76 met with student writers on Wednesday, April 20 for a "Dinner and a Draft" event. And a student panel discussion, an Earth Week open mic event, a planting activity and sale, and participation in a town of Windsor cleanup effort are scheduled for the remainder of the week. The Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies organized the week of events in cooperation with a variety of other offices and student groups on campus.