Trait anxiety and modeled exposure as determinants of self-reported annoyance to sound, air pollution and other environmental factors in the home
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We examined to what degree annoyance ratings to noise, air pollution and other common environmental factors in the home environment could be considered to mirror personality disposition in terms of habitual anxiety level and, when appropriate, objectively modeled noise and nitrogen emission (NOx).
A trait anxiety scale was introduced in a cross-sectional public health survey with 2,856 respondents. Of these, 705 had self-reported asthma and the rest constituted gender-matched referents. Annoyance to ten specific factors in the residential environment, mainly focusing on source-specific noise and air pollution, was assessed on a six-point likert scale. A-weighted energy equivalent continuous sound pressure level during a full day (24 h; L Aeq,24) as well as annual average NOx levels (μg/m3) at the residential address were modeled with high resolution, using a road data base and a detailed emission data base for NOx.
The two most prevalent complaints were annoyance to traffic noise and sounds from neighbors, which was reported by about 8% of the participants. Unadjusted logistic regression analyses using the continuous trait anxiety score as a predictor showed positive associations with ratings of annoyance from total traffic noise, sounds from neighbors, sound from ventilation, exhaust fumes from traffic, sounds from other installations, and vibrations from traffic (ORs between 1.37 and 2.14). Modeled noise and NOx exposure were positively related with annoyance to traffic noise and exhaust fumes, respectively. Adjustment of the trait anxiety scores for other individual characteristics and potential determinants did not change the overall pattern of results.
Trait anxiety scores were often mirrored in ratings of annoyance, which suggests caution when using annoyance reports either as a surrogate measure for environmental exposure on the individual-level in epidemiologic studies or when studying the moderating effects of annoyance on health outcomes.
KeywordsAsthma Air pollution Noise Noise sensitivity Swedish universities Scales of Personality
We are grateful to Per-Olof Östergren, Department of Health Sciences, Division of Social Medicine and Global Health, Malmö University Hospital for giving access to the initial survey data. Susanna Gustafsson and Emilie Stroh at the GIS Centre, Lund University, assisted in the assessment of road traffic noise and air pollution. Åke Boalt at the county council of the Scania region gave assistance as regards the geocoding. The project was financially supported by grants within the National Air Pollution Programme at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the Swedish Emission Research Programme and the Faculty of Medicine, Lund University.
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