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Noise Health. 2001;3(10):1-13.

The influence of psychological factors on self-reported physiological effects of noise.

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Department of Psychology, University of Sydney, NSW 2006 Australia.


We examine the possibility that physiological effects of noise may result not only from noise exposure per se, but also from people's beliefs about the noise. Due to widely publicised changes to the runway configuration at Sydney Airport, aircraft noise levels in nearby areas were expected to either increase, decrease or remain the same. As part of the Sydney Airport Health Study, residents in each of these 3 expected-change areas (N=1015) completed a structured interview which included indices of noise reaction (including annoyance) and physical and mental health, prior to the anticipated changes. Concurrent (pre-change) measures of aircraft noise levels were taken. Self-reported physiological/health effects differed across areas with the same aircraft noise level consistently with differences in psychological reaction across these areas. Expected change in noise level added to the level of self-reported physiological symptoms predicted by noise level in regression analyses. Dose-response functions differed across the expected-change areas. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that noise exposure produces physiological symptoms, but that expectations regarding future noise levels also contribute to the physiological impact of noise, which may be reduced by addressing psychosocial factors related to noise reaction.

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