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The effects of population density and noise

Updated on May 31, 2015

The Effects of Population Density and Noise

The world is on a non -stop growth spurt. This continuous growing pattern affects the lives of billions of people everywhere every day. In 2010 the Census reported about 87.4 people per square mile (U.S. Census, 2010). This number reflects the increasing growth of the nation and rising population density. Alongside population density is pollution and noise increases. Terms such as territory, privacy and personal space become harder to define. The following article will discuss those terms and the effects of population density.


We all need space and time alone. During childhood and in adulthood we need time to ourselves to think about who are and what we want yet, there’s usually always something or person affecting that space. Proxemics is the closeness of people. It is being together or within close social distance of someone else. Proxemics is the study of our use of space and how differences in that use can make us feel more relaxed or anxious. Proxemics comes in two forms: physical territory and personal territory (Sheppard, 1996). The expansion and contraction of our personal space is dependent on many external and internal environmental influences.

Territory, Privacy & Personal Space

Human beings are some of the most territorial creatures, hence a strong need to protect said territory. We make short and long term territorial claims on objects and other people. Should our claim be threatened, humans naturally become angry and riled up. Any mother is a perfect example of how territorial we are.

Most often when people think of territory they think large and wide masses of land or space. While this is a valid way of thinking about territory, in the case of population density territory refers to the personal space within groups or solitaire. There are four basic characteristics of territory. Characteristics include right of ownership to a location or thing such as a house or car; marking an area with photographs or objects like decorating inside the home. Other characteristics are the right to defend against harm and intrusion against robbery or physical abuse and the service of physiological needs. Staking territory is stems from a controlling trait found in all of us that provides identity, security and, stimulation (Lang, 1987).

Privacy is our ability to keep chosen information away from prying eyes. Every individual has a right to a private life. With all the new advancements to technology such as Google satellite that has live feeds of residential streets and traffic, privacy rights, it seems are changing. Celebrities are infamous for having no privacy. Culture and money also affect privacy by the amount of space and bodies in a home. Poor and impoverished residents have less privacy due to living in congested quarters.

Privacy also has a stern legal leg as well. Within particular institutions and certain cases a violation of privacy can result in small to very large fines, intentional or not. In the medical field the HIPPA and new HITECH acts protects patients against privacy violations. Patient charts must be kept in a certain fashion so they are not visible to visitors. Judges and attorneys have confidentiality laws they must follow regarding cases as well.

Personal space is often used interchangeably with privacy. Personal space though is more like an individual’s comfort zone, territorial space. The invasion of personal space can cause some people to get nervous, anxious, and even angry at times. On the other hand, unless one is a hermit, there is no escaping our personal space being violated. Married couples and those in relationships have their personal space invaded every day. Children often hear they have no personal space or privacy until they are at least 18 years of age.


By definition noise is unwelcomed. Noise a sound that is loud and unpleasant. It is any disruption that obscures or reduces the clarity of signal. All sounds are distracting, annoying and potentially harmful to our everyday routines, even the noises that are welcomed. Everyone has a threshold for noise. There are a few things that determine what is sound and what is bothersome noise. Loudness, frequency, continuity, variation with time, time of occurrence, information content, origin of sound, recipient’s state of mind and temperament and background noise level. These factors also determine how much attention a person is able to allocate to one or more sounds.

Exposure to various noise levels lead to loss of hearing over a life span. This loss of hearing can be short term or permanent. When the loss of hearing is permanent shouting may become a habitual affect. Working in extremely loud conditions or living in communities that have lots of loud noise consistently can be very stressful to individual health. A lack of sleep in the home leads to irritability towards others, loss of attention and other health defects.

There are a number of ways to reduce unwelcomed noise. Ear plugs are a great noise reducer, maybe the extension of doors in homes and building. Technology even allows for soundproof rooms, altering sound waves and barriers. In densely populated areas it would benefit residents to have these resources built into the structures.

The Affects of Nature

With all the noise and dense populations nature has its own way of affecting people. There are many things in nature that both positively and negatively impact individuals. Local and national parks extend privacy and personal space when it can’t be found in the normal comfort area. Outings to the park fulfill some physiological and psychological needs. Human beings are spiritual creatures of nature so it is only fate that there is a strong connection to nature. Many individuals find peace and solace in green nature.


There are so many things and people in our daily lives that affect us and take away attention. Growing populations, noise and ideas about personal space are all part of daily stress factors. These three factors rely on each other to exist. Without a continuously growing nation there would be no noise to complain about nor any personal space and privacy to be invaded. Noise is necessary to interrupt personal space. People and objects are required to create the noise. Population greatly affects the notion of territory, personal space and privacy.

We interact with others both voluntarily and un-voluntarily, this is determined by crowding and our individual need of personal space and privacy. This article only tapped into some of the effects of population density on individual lives, continual study is needed to discover more effective ways for coping with the negative, unwanted affects.


US Census (2010). Resident Population Data. Retrieved from

Lang, J. (1987). Creating Architectural Theory: The Role of the Behavioral Sciences in Environmental Design. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Sheppard, M. (1996, July). Proxemics. Retrieved from


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