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Ambient neighbourhood noise and children's mental health
  1. P Lercher1,
  2. G W Evans2,
  3. M Meis3,
  4. W W Kofler1
  1. 1Institute of Hygiene and Social Medicine, Sonnenburgstrasse 16, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  2. 2Department of Design and Environmental Analysis and of Human Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853–4401, USA
  3. 3Institute for Man-environment Relationships, University of Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr P Lercher, Institute of Hygiene and Social Medicine, Sonnenburgstrasse 16, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria;


Objectives: To investigate the relation between typical ambient noise levels (highway, rail, road) and multiple mental health indices of school children considering psychosocial and biological risk factors as potential moderators.

Methods: With a two stage design strategy (representative sample and extreme sample) two cross sectional samples (n=1280; n=123) of primary school children (age 8–11) were studied. Individual exposure to noise at home was linked with two indices of mental health (self reporting by the child on a standard scale and rating by the teacher of classroom adjustment on a standard scale). Noise exposure was modelled firstly according to Austrian guidelines with the aid of a geographical information system and then calibrated and corrected against measurements from 31 locations. Information on potential confounders and risk factors was collected by mothers and controlled in regression modelling through a hierarchical forward stepping procedure. Interaction terms were also analysed to examine subgroups of children at risk—for example, low birth weight and preterm birth.

Results: Noise exposure was significantly associated in both samples with classroom adjustment ratings. Child self reported mental health was significantly linked to ambient noise only in children with a history of early biological risk (low birth weight and preterm birth).

Conclusions: Exposure to ambient noise was associated with small decrements in children's mental health and poorer classroom behaviour. The correlation between mental health and ambient noise is larger in children with early biological risk.

  • traffic noise
  • environmental
  • mental health
  • low birth weight
  • Leq, noise exposure
  • dB,A adjusted noise levels
  • dB,A,Leq, equivalent sound pressure level
  • dB,A,Ldn, equivalent sound pressure day-night level

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