Logo Logo
Switch Language to German

Reichherzer, Anna; Wargocki, Pawel; Mayer, Florian; Norrefeldt, Victor and Herbig, Britta ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6772-5255 (April 2022): Increased self-reported sensitivity to environmental stimuli and its effects on perception of air quality and well-being. [PDF, 238kB]


Background: In previous studies, negative associations were found between increased environmental sensitivity and general well-being as well as positive perception of air quality. However, only a few studies with partly inconsistent results examined this relation under exposure. They tried to determine whether people with increased environmental sensitivity react to real environmental conditions with changes in current well-being and perception of air quality. Methods: Pooled data from two single-blinded randomized controlled trials with different exposure levels were analyzed. Participants were exposed to different levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the front part of a former in-service wide-body airplane inserted in a low-pressure chamber. Three exposure groups were created depending on the VOC/CO2 levels: low, medium and high. Subjects repeatedly answered questions about their current mental well-being and about perception of air quality and odor intensity. Based on self-reported data the participants were classified into groups with low and higher environmental sensitivity. Data were evaluated using a 2 (environmental sensitivity) x 3 (exposure) ANCOVA with repeated measures. Results: 503 individuals (221 females) participated (mean age: 42.8±14.5 years). Thereof, 166 individuals were assigned to the group with higher environmental sensitivity; they reported poorer psychological well-being regarding vitality (F(1,466) = 16.42, p < .001***, partial η² = .034) and vigilance (F(1,467) = 7.82, p = .005**, partial η² = .016) and rated the pleasantness of air quality (F(1,476) = 7.55, p = .006**, partial η² = .016) and air movement (F(1,474) = 5.11, p = .024*, partial η² = .011) worse than people in the low sensitivity group. Exposure levels showed no effects. No systematic differences between men and women were found. Increased environmental sensitivity shared common variance with negative affectivity, another person-related variable. Its explanatory power was higher for evaluations of the environment whereas no differences between the concepts in explaining current psychological well-being were found. Conclusions: Even a slightly elevated level of environmental sensitivity led to worse ratings of the environment with no clear relation to the real environment. Consequently, environmental sensitivity should be considered as a confounding factor in environmental exposure studies. The independency from real exposure levels is in line with the results from previous studies showing that the differences in environmental ratings are probably also driven by psychological factors.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item