Those who earn more can afford better protection
But Diekmann and his co-authors do not just analyze the noise level at the exterior wall; they also compare it to participants’ subjective perception of noise inside their apartment.
One thing that stands out is that people with higher incomes like to live in noisy but attractive neighborhoods, like busy city centers. For example, the average traffic noise pollution in district 5 of Zurich is higher than the city average, while the average monthly income of 6,900 Swiss francs is very high compared to the rest of the city.
However, since well-to-do city dwellers in most cases have larger and better quality apartments than low-income people, they benefit from better noise protection. According to Diekmann, this correlation appears very clearly in the data: “Those who earn well can afford a bigger apartment and do not have to put the bedroom on the street side. Also, more expensive apartments often have better windows.
Environmental concerns lead to greater sensitivity to noise
Moreover, studies show that people’s subjective perception of noise depends not only on the nature and size of their dwelling, but also on their personal attitudes towards environmental risks.
“People who care about the environment have a more critical attitude towards noise. They are more sensitive to it and feel disturbed faster and more often than people who are less concerned about environmental risks,” explains Diekmann.
Noise protection as a health policy
In many large Swiss cities, nearly half of the population lives in places that exceed WHO noise limits. Diekmann therefore considers the fight against noise to be a form of health policy.
“Since low-income people in particular are less able to protect themselves against noise, city policy should give high priority to traffic calming, noise-reducing building measures and promotion of high-quality soundproof windows,” says Diekmann.