Stress reactions to cognitively demanding tasks and open-plan office noise

Jesper Kristiansen, Line Mathiesen, Pernille Kofoed Nielsen, Åse Marie Hansen, Hitomi Shibuya, Helga Petersen, Søren Lund, Jørgen Skotte, Marie Jørgensen, Karen Søgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


OBJECTIVES: To investigate the effects of cognitively demanding work tasks and office noise on heart rate variability (HRV), cardiovascular responses and electromyography (EMG) activity in the trapezius muscles. METHODS: Ten female volunteers were exposed to simulated open-plan office noise for 35 min (Leq 65 dBA), while engaged in cognitively demanding tasks. Task performance, self-rated stress and energy, affective state, perceived exertion in the shoulders and in the head, EMG in the left and right trapezius muscle, blood pressure, heart period length, HRV, and salivary cortisol were measured. RESULTS: Cognitively demanding work tasks were associated with changes in HRV, systolic blood pressure and EMG that reflects increased sympathetic activity in the autonomic nervous system. No effect of noise was observed, except for a higher rating of perceived exertion in the head and, contrary to expectations, a 4% lower diastolic blood pressure in the noise conditions. CONCLUSIONS: Psychophysiological measures reflected the mental load imposed by cognitive work tasks. Short-term exposure to office noise resulted in increased ratings of perceived exertion in the head, but not in physiological stress reactions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)631-641
Publication statusPublished - 1. Apr 2009

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