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      Associations between Positive Health-Related Effects and Soundscapes Perceptual Constructs: A Systematic Review

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          Abstract

          In policy-making and research alike, environmental sounds are often considered only as psychophysical stressors, leading to adverse health effects. The soundscape approach, on the other hand, aims to extend the scope of sound-related research to consider sounds as resources, promoting healthy and supportive environments. The ISO 12913-1 standard defined soundscapes as acoustic environments “as perceived by people, in context.” The aim of this study was assessing associations between positive soundscapes (e.g., pleasant, calm, less annoying) and positive health-related effects (e.g., increased restoration, reduced stress-inducing mechanisms, etc.). Studies collecting data about individual responses to urban acoustic environments, and individual responses on psychophysical well-being were selected, looking at cases where positive effects were observed. The Web of Science, Scopus and PubMed databases were searched for peer-reviewed journal papers published in English between 1 January 1991 and 31 May 2018, with combinations of the keywords “soundscape” and at least one among “health”, “well-being” or “quality of life.” An additional manual search was performed on the reference lists of the retrieved items. Inclusion criteria were: (1) including at least one measure of soundscape dimensions as per the ISO 12913-1 definition; (2) including at least one health-related measure (either physiological or psychological); (3) observing/discussing a “positive” effect of the soundscape on the health-related outcome. The search returned 130 results; after removing duplicates, two authors screened titles and abstracts and selected 19 papers for further analysis. Seven studies were eventually included, with 2783 participants in total. Each study included at least a valence-related soundscape measure. Regarding the health-related measures, four studies included physiological monitoring and the remaining three included self-reported psychological measures. Positive soundscapes were associated with faster stress-recovery processes in laboratory experiments, and better self-reported health conditions in large-scale surveys. Due to the limited number of items and differences in measures across studies, no statistical analysis was performed, and a qualitative approach to data synthesis was sought. Results support the claim that, in contrast with looking at noise only as an environmental stressor, sound perception can act as an enhancer of the human experience in the urban realm, from a health-related point of view.

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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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            A principal components model of soundscape perception.

            There is a need for a model that identifies underlying dimensions of soundscape perception, and which may guide measurement and improvement of soundscape quality. With the purpose to develop such a model, a listening experiment was conducted. One hundred listeners measured 50 excerpts of binaural recordings of urban outdoor soundscapes on 116 attribute scales. The average attribute scale values were subjected to principal components analysis, resulting in three components: Pleasantness, eventfulness, and familiarity, explaining 50, 18 and 6% of the total variance, respectively. The principal-component scores were correlated with physical soundscape properties, including categories of dominant sounds and acoustic variables. Soundscape excerpts dominated by technological sounds were found to be unpleasant, whereas soundscape excerpts dominated by natural sounds were pleasant, and soundscape excerpts dominated by human sounds were eventful. These relationships remained after controlling for the overall soundscape loudness (Zwicker's N(10)), which shows that 'informational' properties are substantial contributors to the perception of soundscape. The proposed principal components model provides a framework for future soundscape research and practice. In particular, it suggests which basic dimensions are necessary to measure, how to measure them by a defined set of attribute scales, and how to promote high-quality soundscapes.
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              Soundscape descriptors and a conceptual framework for developing predictive soundscape models

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                ijerph
                International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
                MDPI
                1661-7827
                1660-4601
                29 October 2018
                November 2018
                : 15
                : 11
                Affiliations
                UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, The Bartlett, University College London (UCL), Central House, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London WC1H 0NN, UK; f.aletta@ 123456ucl.ac.uk (F.A.); t.oberman@ 123456ucl.ac.uk (T.O.)
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: j.kang@ 123456ucl.ac.uk ; Tel.: +44-(0)20-3108-7338
                Article
                ijerph-15-02392
                10.3390/ijerph15112392
                6266166
                30380601
                e730fbc0-72e3-4593-b672-fde5657132b5
                © 2018 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                Categories
                Review

                Public health

                soundscape, environmental noise, public health, well-being, quality of life, restoration

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