Optimism is associated with greater well-being and fewer psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. Relative optimism, people's tendency to expect a better future than their peers, appears to be at least as important as absolute optimism in determining behavioural and emotional responses. Expecting increases in noise has negative effects on reaction to noise (such as annoyance and dissatisfaction) and noise-related health problems prior to actual changes in noise. We examined whether relative optimism was associated with reaction to noise and noise-related health problems. Residents in the vicinity of Sydney Airport (N = 1015) were interviewed prior to runway reconfigurations that were expected to increase noise in some low noise areas but not others, and to decrease noise in some high noise areas but not others. Respondents estimated their own and their peers? likelihood of experiencing several negative events (e.g. develop cancer, be injured in a car accident), rated their reaction to aircraft noise, indicated whether they experienced 9 noise-related symptoms (e.g. headache, stomach upset), responded to questions about their use of substances (e.g. alcohol, tranquillizers), and completed the Profile of Mood States. Relative optimism was associated with lower levels of various negative outcomes of noise exposure, and added to the prediction of these outcomes afforded by noise exposure. The interaction of relative optimism and exposure was more strongly related to explicitly noise-related health outcomes than was optimism itself. Several health outcomes were independently related to ratings of fright/worry about a plane crash. These results suggest that relative optimism my modify responses to noise and provide further evidence for the importance of psychological factors in determining the impacts of noise exposure.
(C) 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.