University students’ self-rated health in relation to perceived acoustic environment during the covid-19 home quarantine

Angel M. Dzhambov*, Peter Lercher, Drozdstoy Stoyanov, Nadezhda Petrova, Stoyan Novakov, Donka D. Dimitrova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Online education became mandatory for many students during the Coro-navirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and blurred the distinction between settings where processes of stress and restoration used to take place. The lockdown also likely changed perceptions of the indoor acoustic environment (i.e., soundscape) and raised its importance. In the present study, we seek to understand how indoor soundscape related to university students’ self-rated health in Bulgaria around the time that the country was under a state of emergency declaration caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Between 17 May and 10 June 2020, we conducted a cross-sectional online survey among 323 students (median age 21 years; 31% male) from two universities in the city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Self-rated health (SRH) was measured with a single-item. Participants were asked how frequently they heard different types of sounds while at home and how pleasant they considered each of those sounds to be. Restorative quality of the home (the “being away” dimension of the Perceived Restorativeness Scale) was measured with a single-item. A priori confounders and effect modifiers included sociodemographics, house-related characteristics, general sensitivity to environmental influences, and mental health. Our analysis strategy involved sequential exploratory factor analysis (EFA), multivariate linear and ordinal regressions, effect modification tests, and structural equation modeling (SEM). Results: EFA supported grouping perceived sounds into three distinct factors—mechanical, human, and nature sounds. Regression analyses revealed that greater exposure to mechanical sounds was consistently associated with worse SRH, whereas no significant associations were found for human and nature sounds. In SEM, exposure to mechanical sounds related to lower restorative quality of the home, and then to poorer SRH, whereas nature sounds correlated with higher restorative quality, and in turn with better SRH. Conclusions: These findings suggest a role of positive indoor soundscape and restorative quality for promoting self-rated health in times of social distancing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2538
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Environmental sensitivity
  • Indoor environment
  • Low frequency noise
  • Nature sounds
  • Self-rated health
  • Soundscape
  • Traffic noise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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