Link Found Between Noise, Increased Workers' Blood Pressure

Chronic exposure to loud industrial noise was found to increase blood pressure overtime and to reduce job satisfaction, especially for those with complex jobs, according to a recent study.

Chronic exposure to loud industrial noise was found to increase blood pressure overtime and to reduce job satisfaction, especially for those with complex jobs, according to a study in this month''s issue of Occupational Health Psychology.

On the other hand, for workers in simple jobs (those jobs involving less task complexity and variety) being exposed to moderate levels of ambient noise was found to be beneficial.

Study authors Samuel Melamed, Ph.D. and Dr. Paul Froom, of the National Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health in Israel and Yitzhak Fried, Ph.D., of Wayne State University, investigated the effects of noise on changes in blood pressure levels and job satisfaction of 807 blue and white collar workers from 21 industrial plants.

The results showed that workers who performed complex jobs, such as computer programmers, quality control experts and engineers, and were exposed to high ambient noise levels had a threefold increase in systolic blood pressure and a twofold increase in diastolic blood pressure compared to those performing tasks like machine operations and assembly line work.

Previous studies have shown that job complexity is associated with greater job challenge and stimulation and it is expected to positively affect employees'' psychological well-being and motivation.

However, the authors noted that this study is important because it is the first time that the above holds only for those with favorable environmental conditions, such as low ambient noise levels.

On the other hand, those who perform complex jobs under highly intrusive background noise may require additional attention and concentration, causing higher stress.

These workers become dissatisfied with their job and are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, according to the study.

The study also found that workers in simple jobs may benefit from exposure to moderate noise levels.

Compared to other workers in simple jobs exposed to low ambient noise, those exposed to moderate noise levels showed much lower blood pressure change over time and considerable less reduction in job satisfaction.

"Exposure to noise levels may be arousing and offset the understimulation associated with the boredom and monotony likely to be experienced in simple jobs," said the authors.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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