Noise pollution: less noise, more mental health

By: Alessandra Reque Canales, Alejandra Araujo García & Lyliana Alarcón Nuñez


INTRODUCTION


There are various investigations regarding mental health, even going so far as to link it to other areas; this with the purpose of deepening its importance for the collective benefit. According to the WHO, mental health is classified as “(…) a complete physical, mental and social well-being and not only the absence of disease or illness (WHO 2001, P.1);” However, human activity and the management of urban development contributed to the existence of factors such as lighting, air and acoustics, conditioning well-being in general.


Regarding noise pollution, the WHO determined that the noise limit should be less than 50 decibels due to hearing and non-hearing disorders, mentioning the most common which are: headaches, tachycardia, digestive problems, altered mood, that get complicated by psychological effects such as: stress, insomnia, irritability, depressive symptoms, among others.


Taking this into account, the relation that exists between psychology and the environment, called environmental psychology, is studied against rural and urban areas, capturing greater interest.


Peruvian context:


Noise is estimated as an unfavorable pollutant that affects the health of people living in urban centers and that generates imbalances in the different ecosystems.

Cercado de Lima has three main sources of noise: public transportation, vehicle horns and discotheques - bars. These main sources impact the health of the citizen, generating diseases such as: stress, insomnia, headache and hearing loss. (Solís Amanzo, 2013)


Any commercial area that exceeds the established limits is called a black spot and residential areas are classified as a gray zone. In the monitoring conducted in the streets and avenues of Cercado de Lima, noise was measured in the range of 75 to 90 decibels, highly exceeding national noise standards, thus considering the city as highly noisy.


On the other hand, in the urban area of Cajamarca, noise pollution levels are causing high levels of anxiety in people between 40 and 69 years of age. It can also be observed that the relationship between level 1 (< 45) of anxiety and age is equal to 90.99%, and between levels 2 (45 - 59) and 3 (60 - 74) of anxiety and the age of the inhabitants, was directly proportional; with a degree of association of 95.21% and 94.23%, respectively. (Grau Chavéz, 2019).


New urban models


The levels of noise pollution in each city are associated with its own design. That is why many urban planning factors (population density, street distribution, green spaces, etc.) are being reorganized or analyzed with greater precision due to their direct effect on vehicle distribution, volume and traffic conditions (Morillas , 2018).


The new urban models or designs emerged as a new practice to improve people's well-being, trying to reduce the use of private vehicles and replace them with public transport, cycling or walking (Nieuwenhuijsen, 2021). The most common examples implemented in cities such as Paris or Barcelona are the "Superblocks" and "City of 15 minutes".


The 500 “Superblocks” adapted in Barcelona have been reducing traffic in some streets of various blocks, increasing green areas and reducing noise generated by vehicles. The "15-minute city" initiative focuses on a more traditional city model, where citizens can find greater proximity to green spaces, public spaces, shops, wineries, having the principle of increasing the services offered and decentralization at the same time (Moreno, 2020).


(a) Superblocks – Barcelona (b) 15-minute city - Paris


Source: Adapted from Nieuwenhuijsen (2021)

CONCLUSIONS


Noise pollution is a problem that has been growing over the last century, not only in Peru, but throughout the world. It is something that affects the development of our daily tasks and it is necessary to know and learn how to control it. The measurement of noise pollution is a process that involves institutions at district, provincial and national levels, in which each entity is responsible for different tasks. The main role in this mechanism is played by the municipalities, which have a closer relationship with the citizens.


The new urban models are a good alternative to reduce noise pollution that is associated with some mental health problems. Although they are designs currently implemented on a smaller scale and needed a more detailed evaluation of effectiveness, it is expected that their acceptance will be positive and implemented in the "hotspots" of crowded cities such as Lima.



REFERENCES


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