Personality clue to 'wind turbine syndrome'

Mar 22, 2013
Personality clue to 'wind turbine syndrome'

(Phys.org) —Public concern about new technology infrastructure like mobile phone masts has been shown to trigger reports of ill health… and recently even the new 'green' technology of wind turbines has been blamed for medically unexplained non-specific symptoms.

But now, for the first time, a study by psychologists, engineers and built environment experts at The University of Nottingham, has found no link between the 'measured' level of noise from small and micro and reports of ill health.

The research could be helpful in prompting pre-emptive action in future planning applications for small and medium sized wind turbines to help reassure those concerned about the impact of small and micro wind turbines on their wellbeing.

Midlands survey

This collaborative study involved researchers from the Faculty of Engineering as well as Social Sciences and was funded by the UK Energy Research Centre . It is the first project to examine how personality, and specifically 'negative orientated personality' (NOP), affects reported levels of non-specific symptoms like headache, sleeplessness, stomach upsets and general malaise. It was carried out as a public survey of 1270 households within 500 metres of eight 0.6kW micro-turbines and within 1 km of four 5kW wind turbines in two Midlands cities.

Dr Claire Lawrence from the University's School of Psychology said: "We measured the actual noise from the turbines and used modelling software that helped us to predict how much sound is actually heard by those living in the vicinity. We found there was no relationship between the 'real' level of noise and reports of ill health. "

The personality traits measured from the 138 returned questionnaires were neuroticism, (propensity to be more anxious, to take longer to revert to an equilibrium), negative affectivity (the propensity to feel ), and also frustration intolerance (sensitivity towards frustrations, discomforts and annoyances).

Sounds of a turbine

The research involved extensive fieldwork to gather data to create a series of geographical sound maps using state of the art computer software. Ten sound types were selected based on previous published research into wind turbine noise. The sounds were; swooshing, screeching, whistling, humming, throbbing, thumping, scratching, high frequency, low frequency and buzzing. For each, participants were asked to rate how often they had heard each sound from the micro or small turbine near their home, and how loud each sound was to them on a scale of 0 (never noticed) to 4 (extremely loud.) A mean score was calculated for both the occurrence and loudness for each participant.

To take into account people's attitude to wind power the survey asked them about their attitude to it using a scale of 1 to 7, from very positive to very negative. The participants also reported their experience of 12 common symptoms such as headache and fatigue over the preceding six months.

No evidence of a link

The researchers concluded that the people who live near a turbine and can hear some noise, did not suffer more non-specific health symptoms than people who could not in reality hear the same sound. The study indicated that generally it is not the turbine noise per se that is causing the symptoms. Indeed, for those individuals who did not score highly on these negative orientated personality traits, reporting hearing the sound was not associated with symptoms. This association was only evident for those higher in these traits.

While there is general public support for renewable energy, and indeed the majority of respondents in the reported study were positive about wind energy in general, it is acknowledged that individuals are often more negative when faced with the prospect of having wind turbines near their homes. This research is the first study ever carried out to show the relationship between personality and perception of wind turbine noise in relation to a so-called ''. The results could be significant in informing local authority decision-making on the increasing number of planning applications for wind turbines across the UK.

Explore further: Going nuts? Turkey looks to pistachios to heat new eco-city

More information: Taylor, J. et al. 2013. The influence of negative oriented personality traits on the effects of wind turbine noise, Personality and Individual Differences. 54(3), 338-343. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886912004783

Taylor, J. et al. 2013. Noise levels and noise perception from small and micro turbines, Renewable Energy. 55, 120-127. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2012.11.031

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User comments : 12

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ccr5Delta32
1 / 5 (3) Mar 22, 2013
I once took a ferry across the north sea and now and again we'd pass an oil rig in the distance with the appearance of a miniature floating city,and it is just that , it's like a small town out on an unforgiving sea . Comforting and esthetically not unpleasant ,actually nice . But none of this has anything to do with what I think about oil industry ' rights or wrongs
Wind turbines fall into the same category in this respect . At least not too many in my eye shot . It's a reasonable point of view .As for the syndrome's ,likely nonsense very . Me , I've got " Overhead Power Transmission Syndrome " , should be buried underground
gwrede
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2013
I wish they would study those "allergic to electricity" and mobile phones, and those who've seen flying saucers or been abducted, for personality.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (9) Mar 22, 2013
In fact, the very article advertises the illegitimacy of the "tests". The very fact that it has to refer to the reference amounts of "noise" using the word "measured", in quotes, indicating their goal oriented definition for the term does not necessarily align with more general meanings, indicates a willful intention to fabricate data and draw self serving if invalid "conclusions". Note, for example, how they refer to one of the levels of noise they invoked as "low frequency". How low did they monitor? In fact, the "research" refers to frequencies that were low, but apparently still audible. Indeed, there is no reason not to assume frequencies just below hearing can have an effect on an individual. Certainly, there is no "research" that indicates that all frequencies below human hearing cannot affect an individual. As with all "science", they play only to those who don't have enough understanding of the world around them to realize when they're being sold a bill of goods.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2013
Consider, for example, ccr55Delta32's apparent belief that their recounting of passing an offshore oil rig is sufficient to "invalidate" complaints about wind turbines. ccr55Delta32 describes riding past a rig in the distance in a ferry. ccr55Delta32 describes it as "pleasant". But ccr55Delta32 was passing by the rig in the distance, they weren't living under it constantly, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day! And nothing says the sound an oil rig makes are necessarily anything like the sounds wind turbines make! And yet ccr55Delta32 seeks to convince the gullible that this is sufficient to deny reports of turbines affecting people. This is the quality of "reasoning" among those who support the lies such as the "research" indicated in this article promotes.
robeph
5 / 5 (3) Mar 22, 2013
I don't think they should call this "wind turbine syndrome". Instead they ought call it "retarded american syndrome"; I say this only because this "issue" doesn't appear in Europe, where wind turbine farms are 100s of times more abundant than in the US, and yet...

American's love to make up increasingly nonsensical reasons for disregarding technical advancement, whether it's a conspiracy, a fabrication, or some made up illness, it seems you're all very good at coming up with that nonsense. In Germany and Denmark, between the two with over 30,000 turbines, there is no evidence of adverse effects from turbines, aside from the line of sight / noise considerations, which no one argues. They make noise (so do vehicles that drive around which living within a couple miles of any major highway system incurs this 24 hours a day) and they're visually unappealing, but they make no one sick except idiots.
VendicarE
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2013
There is an epidemic of Retarded American Syndrome in America. The primary vector for the disease are Libertarian, corporate propaganda stink tanks like CATO and the Heritage Foundation.

https://docs.goog...=sharing
Neinsense99
2.5 / 5 (8) Mar 23, 2013
"Mr. President, we cannot afford a stink tank gap!" General Buck Turgidson(tard)
The bit in brackets was for you, Vendy...
kochevnik
3 / 5 (6) Mar 23, 2013
Just another crop of crazy Don Quixotes fueled by petrol industry dinohead peudoscientists

The ascetic is similar to the modular look of products in an IKEA store. In USA ugly rectangular design is considered ascetically pleasing. Why would such persons object to windmills, which are simply more of the same?
kochevnik
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2013
Meant "aesthetic"
Neinsense99
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2013
"We found there was no relationship between the 'real' level of noise and reports of ill health. "

There will be a correlation between awareness of the windmill's existence and vague symptom, quite likely also resistance to change.

alfie_null
not rated yet Mar 23, 2013
As long as we're being sensitive to these sort of subtle changes in the ambiance of our environment, I'd suggest to be considered: vehicular noise. And train noise. And aircraft noise (particularly near airports). All these are much more overt. Present for orders of magnitude larger populations. Much more likely to effect (and affect) poor health.
Guy_Underbridge
5 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2013
If it were a choice between windmills or no electricity, this 'syndrome' would disappear completely, cured by magic.

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