Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Impact of Long-Term Exposure to Wind Turbine Noise on Redemption of Sleep Medication and Antidepressants: A Nationwide Cohort Study

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Impact of Long-Term Exposure to Wind Turbine Noise on Redemption of Sleep Medication and Antidepressants: A Nationwide Cohort Study

Article excerpt


Over the last several decades, wind power deployment has increased markedly worldwide, with a rise in the global cumulative wind capacity from 23 GW in 2001 to 487 GW in 2016 (GWEC 2017). In Denmark, wind power provides more than 40% of the national electricity consumption, which is the highest proportion worldwide. This has led to a growing number of persons being exposed to noise from wind turbines (WTs), followed by a rise in the number of persons complaining that WT noise (WTN) impacts their lives negatively through noise annoyance, disturbance of sleep, and other adverse health effects (Schmidt and Klokker 2014).

Epidemiological studies have consistently found that emission of noise from WTs is associated with annoyance (Guski et al. 2017; Hongisto et al. 2017; Michaud et al. 2016d). Exposure-response curves show that WTN is associated with a higher proportion of highly annoyed persons than traffic noise at comparable levels (Janssen et al. 2011; Michaud et al. 2016d). Potential explanations include that WTN, which depends on wind speed and direction, is less predictable for those exposed than other noise sources such as road traffic noise. In addition, onshore WTs are typically erected in rural areas, where people often expect silent surroundings and where the sound from WTs may be more noticeable than in urbanized areas. Furthermore, amplitude modulation gives WTN a rhythmic quality different from traffic noise, and it has been suggested that the characteristics of WTN relevant for annoyance may be better captured by metrics focusing on amplitude modulation or low-frequency (LF) noise, rather than the full spectrum A-weighted noise (Jeffery et al. 2014; Schaffer et al. 2016).

Studies have indicated that exposure to WTN is associated with the disturbance of sleep, and the potential mechanisms include a direct association with nighttime noise, disturbance of sleep through annoyance, or a combination of the two (Bakker et al. 2012). A meta-analysis from 2015 based on 1,039 persons from six cross-sectional studies using questionnaires to assess information on sleep disturbance, found that exposure to WTN increased the odds for self-reported sleeping problems (Onakpoya et al. 2015). The investigators, however, wrote that the results should be interpreted with caution due to large variations in the estimations of noise and self-reported sleep disturbance across the included studies. Since the meta-analysis in 2015, a Japanese study of 1,079 persons found that outdoor WTN levels >40 dB were associated with self-reported insomnia (Kageyama et al. 2016). Interestingly, a cross-sectional Canadian study of 1,238 persons found no associations between 1-y mean outdoor WTN and various measures of sleep, including both subjective self-reported information of sleep quality and use of sleep medication as well as objective measures of sleep (Michaud et al. 2016a, 2016b). Thus, it remains uncertain from which exposure levels and to what extent WTN disturbs sleep.

A few studies have investigated whether WTN is associated with mental health, which was mainly assessed as self-reported quality of life (Feder et al. 2015; Jalali et al. 2016; Onakpoya et al. 2015). While a systematic review from 2015 based on four cross-sectional studies concluded that living in areas with WTs might be associated with decreased quality of life (Onakpoya et al. 2015), a recent large Canadian study found no association (Feder et al. 2015). In addition, a study based on 31 participants with self-reported information on quality of life before and after installation of WTs, found a worsening in different components of quality of life such as the mental component score (Jalali et al. 2016). Last, the large Canadian study also investigated whether outdoor 1-y WTN noise was associated with self-reported anxiety or depression medication but found no association (Michaud et al. 2016b).

The existing studies on WTN and sleep and mental health are generally of cross-sectional design and rely on active participation and self-reported data. …

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