The consulting network for Business, Environment and the Community they serve.

Health, Wellbeing, Annoyance and Amenity

Dr Bob Thorne

Health Impact Assessment

Health impact assessment draws on the idea of public health. Public health is about keeping people healthy and improving the health of populations. It is defined as 'the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organised efforts of society.'

Health and wellbeing therefore incorporate a wide range of relationships. Annoyance, sleep disturbance and stress have direct relevance to adverse health reactions. The difference therefore between sound and noise is the values that people give to the sounds they hear. Noise has a definite character and a direct adverse affect on the well-being of individuals and the community exposed to it. This has a direct relationship to good health and well-being. The World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution definition of health as given in the Guidelines for Community Noise 2000[5], for example, is:

“A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Annoyance has been defined by the World Health Organization as: a feeling of displeasure associated with any agent or condition, known or believed by an individual or group to adversely affect them. Used as a general term to cover negative reactions to noise, it may include anger, dissatisfaction, helplessness, depression, anxiety, distraction, agitation or exhaustion. Individual amenity, therefore, is described in relation to the adverse effects of intrusive noise, including noise sensitivity and annoyance, onto a person’s sense of amenity or peace and tranquillity.

Noise annoyance is an emotional and attitudinal reaction from a person exposed to noise in a given context. From this definition it is obvious that other factors, modifiers, than the noise level are highly relevant if one wants to quantify the annoyance.

It is fair to say that there is a balance, or tipping point, between the environmental values to be enhanced or protected and the opportunity for a wind farm to develop. That is, a balance between:

(a) the wellbeing of the community or a part of the community, including its


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