Depressive symptoms and headaches in relation to proximity of residence to an alternating-current transmission line right-of-way

Am J Epidemiol. 1993 Feb 1;137(3):318-30. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a116679.


Electric power transmission lines have become objects of public controversy. Hypotheses have linked neurobehavioral effects to the electric and magnetic fields that these lines produce. The authors conducted a telephone interview survey in November 1987 to assess the prevalence of depressive symptoms and headache in relation to proximity of residence to an alternating-current transmission line in the United States. Proximity to the line, defined as residing on a property abutting the right-of-way or being able to see the towers from one's house or yard, was positively associated with a measure of depressive symptoms. The association was not explained by demographic variables associated with depression or by attitudes about power lines or other environmental issues. The estimated prevalence odds ratio was 2.8 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.6-5.1). The estimate did not change appreciably when the definitions of depressive symptoms or of proximity to the line were altered. Nonmigraine headaches had a weaker association with proximity to the line (odds ratio = 1.5, 95% CI 0.76-2.8), and self-reported migraine headaches exhibited no association (odds ratio = 0.99, 95% CI 0.29-3.4). Additional studies of psychological and behavioral measures should be conducted in relation to electric and magnetic fields, with a strong emphasis on improved exposure assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bias
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Educational Status
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena*
  • Female
  • Headache / epidemiology*
  • Headache / etiology
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology