The Finnish health agency THL recently conducted a study, which for the first time examined the extent to which people in Finland are annoyed by different sources of environmental noise.
The findings of the investigation were published by THL on Monday. According to experts, around a fifth of Finns classify themselves as sensitive to noise. And noise caused by road traffic and close neighbors are the most common sources of environmental noise annoyance for them in their daily lives.
According to the study, 4.8% of respondents felt that road traffic noise was very annoying whereas noise from nearby neighbours was considered very annoying by 4.5% of respondents.
“Society is gradually recognising the harmful effects of road traffic noise. In the future, the harmful effects of noise caused by neighbours should also be considered as an important source of environmental noise,” says Anu Turunen, THL's Senior Researcher.
Other sources of environmental noise included in the study were rail, tram and air traffic, industry and ports, and in addition to nearby neighbours, other neighbourhood noise.
Perceiving noise as an annoyance is very individual.
“This experience is influenced not only by the physical characteristics of the sound and the exposure situation, but also by individual characteristics such as noise sensitivity and attitude towards the noise source. Depending on the person, for example, the noise caused by neighbours can be perceived as very annoying, even if the sound pressure level is low and the noise could be classified as normal living sounds,” says Turunen.
One fifth noise-sensitive
In Finland, about one-fifth classify themselves as noise-sensitive. In this study, whether or not the respondents classified themselves as noise-sensitive appeared to determine how annoyed they were by environmental noise.
For example, respondents who defined themselves as noise-sensitive were three times more likely to say that their life was significantly annoyed because of road traffic noise or noise from nearby neighbours. Sleep disturbance due to road traffic noise was also almost five times more common among noise-sensitive respondents.
“Noise sensitivity plays a key role in the health effects of noise. It determines the extent to which an individual is disturbed by noise and how sensitively and strongly the individual and their body reacts to the noise,” says Turunen.
The study was based on the survey data collected by THL in 2015, which covered the whole of Finland. A sample of 38,000 Finns over the age of 20 was randomly selected for the survey.