Subjective annoyance attributed to electrical equipments and smells - Epidemiology and stress physiology

Abstract: Self-reported annoyance from electrical equipment has been in evidence since the mid-eighties, and the first reports of illness from everyday chemicals arose already in the 1960?s. However, the extent of the problem or the mechanisms behind the development of environmentally related annoyance has not yet been fully established. Increased vulnerability to stress has been suggested to be a possible mechanism behind sensitivity to electricity and common smells. The aim of this thesis was to estimate the prevalence of annoyance related to electrical and chemical factors in a Swedish general population, and to assess possible relations to subjective health, daily functioning and health care utilisation. A further aim was to disclose differential patterns of cortisol secretion in three environmentally annoyed groups, compared with non-annoyed persons, and to test whether the environmentally annoyed subjects would fail to show a suppressed hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) response after an overnight dexamethasone suppression test. A population based health survey encompassing 13 604 persons were used for the epidemiological analyses regarding prevalence of environmental annoyance, and relation to subjective health and well being. Record linkage was performed to analyse health care utilisation. The stress study included 141 subjects, recruited from the survey population. During a two-week period, the participants filled in a logbook including questions regarding sleep quality, subjective stress and health complaints. During four days, the participants also collected saliva samples, four samples each day, with reference to awakening. The functioning of the HPA axis was tested by an overnight dexamethasone suppression test. Annoyance attributed to environmental factors was common in the general Scanian population studied. Of the respondents, 30% stated to be annoyed to any degree, and 6% reported ?much? annoyance, attributed to some electrical factors, chemicals or smells. Subjects associating annoyance with electrical factors, chemicals or smells rated their overall health and functional capacity significantly poorer than the general population. Despite this, the health care utilisation was not much increased in a group with annoyance attributed to both electricity and chemicals/smells. In the stress study, the environmentally annoyed subjects did not present elevated physiological stress levels during daily life. The group with annoyance attributed to both electricity and smells experienced higher levels of subjective stress and health complaints during the two-week period, although these feelings did not influence the HPA activity. All groups showed normal suppression of the HPA axis after ingestion of dexamethasone. Subjective annoyance attributed to electrical and chemical factors was common in the population. Subjects attributing annoyance to both electrical and chemical factors appeared to be the most affected regarding subjective stress and well being. However, no evidence of elevated physiological stress response was found in any of the examined groups.

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