Possible psychological mechanisms for "wind turbine syndrome". On the windmills of your mind

G. James Rubin*, Miriam Burns, Simon Wessely

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Throughout history, people have suffered from physical symptoms that they have attributed to modern technologies. Often these attributions are strongly held, but not supported by scientific evidence. Symptoms attributed to the operation of wind turbines (called "wind turbine syndrome" by some) may fit into this category. Several psychological mechanisms might account for symptoms attributed to wind turbines. First, the "nocebo effect" is a well-recognized phenomenon in which the expectation of symptoms can become self-fulfilling. Second, misattribution of pre-existing or new symptoms to a novel technology can also occur. Third worry about a modern technology increases the chances of someone attributing symptoms to it. Fourth, social factors, including media reporting and interaction with lobby groups can increase symptom reporting. For wind turbines, there is already some evidence that a nocebo effect can explain the attributed symptoms while misattribution seems likely. Although worry has not been directly studied, research has shown that people who are annoyed by the sound that turbines produce are more likely to report symptoms and that annoyance is associated with attitudes toward the visual impact of wind farms and whether a person benefits economically from a wind farm. Given that these mechanisms may be sufficient to account for the experiences reported by sufferers, policy-makers, clinicians and patients should insist on good-quality evidence before accepting a more direct causal link.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-122
Number of pages7
JournalNoise & health
Volume16
Issue number69
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Annoyance
  • expectations
  • nocebo effect
  • symptoms
  • wind turbine
  • SUBJECTIVE HEALTH COMPLAINTS
  • ELECTROMAGNETIC-FIELDS
  • MEDIA WARNINGS
  • DOUBLE-BLIND
  • NOISE
  • SYMPTOMS
  • EXPOSURE
  • PROVOCATION
  • INTOLERANCE
  • PREVALENCE

Cite this