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      Attractive “Quiet” Courtyards: A Potential Modifier of Urban Residents’ Responses to Road Traffic Noise?

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          Abstract

          The present paper explores the influence of the physical environmental qualities of “quiet”. courtyards (degree of naturalness and utilization) on residents’ noise responses. A questionnaire study was conducted in urban residential areas with road-traffic noise exposure between L Aeq,24h 58 to 68 dB at the most exposed façade. The dwellings had “quiet” indoor section/s and faced a “quiet” outdoor courtyard ( L Aeq,24h < 48 dB façade reflex included). Data were collected from 385 residents and four groups were formed based on sound-level categories (58–62 and 63–68 dB) and classification of the “quiet” courtyards into groups with low and high physical environmental quality. At both sound-level categories, the results indicate that access to high-quality “quiet” courtyards is associated with less noise annoyance and noise-disturbed outdoor activities among the residents. Compared to low-quality “quiet” courtyards, high-quality courtyards can function as an attractive restorative environment providing residents with a positive soundscape, opportunities for rest, relaxation and play as well as social relations that potentially reduce the adverse effects of noise. However, access to quietness and a high-quality courtyard can only compensate partly for high sound levels at façades facing the streets, thus, 16% and 29% were still noise annoyed at 58–62 and 63–68 dB, respectively. Implications of the “quiet”-side concept are discussed.

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          Stress Recovery during Exposure to Nature Sound and Environmental Noise

          Research suggests that visual impressions of natural compared with urban environments facilitate recovery after psychological stress. To test whether auditory stimulation has similar effects, 40 subjects were exposed to sounds from nature or noisy environments after a stressful mental arithmetic task. Skin conductance level (SCL) was used to index sympathetic activation, and high frequency heart rate variability (HF HRV) was used to index parasympathetic activation. Although HF HRV showed no effects, SCL recovery tended to be faster during natural sound than noisy environments. These results suggest that nature sounds facilitate recovery from sympathetic activation after a psychological stressor.
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            Noise pollution: non-auditory effects on health.

            Noise is a prominent feature of the environment including noise from transport, industry and neighbours. Exposure to transport noise disturbs sleep in the laboratory, but not generally in field studies where adaptation occurs. Noise interferes in complex task performance, modifies social behaviour and causes annoyance. Studies of occupational and environmental noise exposure suggest an association with hypertension, whereas community studies show only weak relationships between noise and cardiovascular disease. Aircraft and road traffic noise exposure are associated with psychological symptoms but not with clinically defined psychiatric disorder. In both industrial studies and community studies, noise exposure is related to raised catecholamine secretion. In children, chronic aircraft noise exposure impairs reading comprehension and long-term memory and may be associated with raised blood pressure. Further research is needed examining coping strategies and the possible health consequences of adaptation to noise.
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              Road traffic noise and hypertension.

              It has been suggested that noise exposure increases the risk of hypertension. Road traffic is the dominant source of community noise exposure. To study the association between exposure to residential road traffic noise and hypertension in an urban municipality. The study population comprised randomly selected subjects aged 19-80 years. A postal questionnaire provided information on individual characteristics, including diagnosis of hypertension. The response rate was 77%, resulting in a study population of 667 subjects. The outdoor equivalent traffic noise level (Leq 24 h) at the residence of each individual was determined using noise-dispersion models and manual noise assessments. The individual noise exposure was classified in units of 5 dB(A), from 65 dB(A). The odds ratio (OR) for hypertension adjusted for age, smoking, occupational status and house type was 1.38 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06 to 1.80) per 5 dB(A) increase in noise exposure. The association seemed stronger among women (OR 1.71; 95% CI 1.17 to 2.50) and among those who had lived at the address for >10 years (OR 1.93; 95% CI 1.29 to 2.83). Analyses of categorical exposure variables suggested an exposure-response relationship. The strongest association between exposure to traffic noise and hypertension was found among those with the least expected misclassification of true individual exposure, as indicated by not having triple-glazed windows, living in an old house and having the bedroom window facing a street (OR 2.47; 95% CI 1.38 to 4.43). The results of our study suggest an association between exposure to residential road traffic noise and hypertension.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                101238455
                International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
                Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI)
                1661-7827
                1660-4601
                September 2010
                30 August 2010
                : 7
                : 9
                : 3359-3375
                Affiliations
                The Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Box 414, SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden; E-Mail: evy.ohrstrom@ 123456amm.gu.se (E.Ö)
                Author notes
                [* ]Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: anita.gidlof@ 123456amm.gu.se ; Tel.: +46-31-786-36-78; Fax: +46-31-40-97-28.
                Article
                ijerph-07-03359
                10.3390/ijerph7093359
                2954550
                20948929
                d0f84baf-0298-45f9-83be-7d69c0852107
                © 2010 by the authors; licensee Molecular Diversity Preservation International, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

                Categories
                Article

                Public health
                “quiet” side,road-traffic noise,perceived soundscape,restorative environments,annoyance,“quiet” courtyard

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