We report a cross-sectional study comparing the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of individuals residing in the proximity of a wind farm to those residing in a demographically matched area sufficiently displaced from wind turbines. The study employed a nonequivalent comparison group posttest-only design. Self-administered questionnaires, which included the brief version of the World Health Organization quality of life scale, were delivered to residents in two adjacent areas in semirural New Zealand. Participants were also asked to identify annoying noises, indicate their degree of noise sensitivity, and rate amenity. Statistically significant differences were noted in some HRQOL domain scores, with residents living within 2 km of a turbine installation reporting lower overall quality of life, physical quality of life, and environmental quality of life. Those exposed to turbine noise also reported significantly lower sleep quality, and rated their environment as less restful. Our data suggest that wind farm noise can negatively impact facets of HRQOL.
A thorough investigation of wind turbine noise and its effects on health is important given the prevalence of exposed individuals, a nontrivial number that is increasing with the popularity of wind energy. For example, in the Netherlands it is reported that 440,000 inhabitants (2.5% of the population) are exposed to significant levels of wind turbine noise. Additionally, policy makers are demanding more information on the possible link between wind turbines and health in order to inform setback distances. Our results suggest that utility-scale wind energy generation is not without adverse health impacts on nearby residents. Thus, nations undertaking large-scale deployment of wind turbines need to consider the impact of noise on the HRQOL of exposed individuals. Along with others, we conclude that night-time wind turbine noise limits should be set conservatively to minimize harm, and, on the basis of our data, suggest that setback distances need to be greater than 2 km in hilly terrain.
Noise & Health, September-October 2011, 13:54,333-9
Daniel Shepherd, Erin M. Hill
Department of Psychology, School of Public Health, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
David Welch, Kim N. Dirks
School of Population Health, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
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