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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Mosquito and Fly Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #298799

Title: Quantifying the impact of mosquitoes on quality of life and enjoyment yard and porch activities in New Jersey

item HALASA, YARA - Brandeis University
item SHEPARD, DONALD - Brandeis University
item FONSECA, DINA - Rutgers University
item FARAJOLLAHI, ARY - Mercer County
item HEALY, SEAN - Monmouth County
item GAUGLER, RANDY - Rutgers University
item BARTLETT-HEALY, KRISTEN - Rutgers University
item Strickman, Daniel
item Clark, Gary

Submitted to: PLOS ONE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/16/2014
Publication Date: 3/6/2014
Citation: Halasa, Y., Shepard, D.S., Fonseca, D.M., Farajollahi, A., Healy, S., Gaugler, R., Bartlett-Healy, K., Strickman, D.A., Clark, G.G. 2014. Quantifying the impact of mosquitoes on quality of life and enjoyment yard and porch activities in New Jersey. PLoS One. 9(3):1-9.

Interpretive Summary: A study of the impact of the Asian tiger mosquito on the quality of life of residents of two counties in New Jersey was conducted in 2010. Since quality of life is increasingly important for many aspects of social policy, the objective of the study was to obtain information needed about residents’ preferences related to mosquitoes in order to conduct future cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit studies of mosquito control. The study completed interviews with residents of 121 randomly selected households. Respondents reported their experiences with mosquitoes, quantified the unpleasantness caused by mosquitoes and their impact on human activities, valued a mosquito-free hour, and rated the importance they attached to reducing the burden of mosquitoes compared to other neighborhood characteristics. The study used and validated three alternative approaches: a visual analogue scale, paired comparisons against five known levels of quality of life, and paired comparisons against five diseases with known disability weights. It found that 51% of respondents considered mosquitoes to be a problem. On average, a mosquito free hour for recreational purposes was valued at $9.48, so the economic loss of enjoyment caused by mosquitoes over one 13-week summer was $123. The study validated the usefulness of two of three approaches, the visual analogue scale (which looked like a thermometer) worked as well as the health state comparison. For both of these indicators, the quantitative measures agreed with the residents’ rating of the severity of the problem. Finally, the study showed that mosquitoes reduced residents’ recreational backyard activities by an average of 8.43 hours (with standard error of 1.07 hours) per resident per week. This study was the first to quantify directly the loss in quality of life from each hour affected by mosquitoes. It showed that mosquitoes substantially limited residents’ outdoor activities. The study has also provided important methodological groundwork for cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analyses of the control of the Asian tiger mosquito.

Technical Abstract: New Jersey, like many mid-Atlantic and southeastern states, has a persistent problem with the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). This species and other mosquitoes reduce residents’ quality of life through discomfort and possible risk of disease transmission. To guide a comprehensive area-wide pest management project to control Ae. albopictus in two counties (Mercer and Monmouth) in New Jersey, we quantified the impact of mosquitoes on residents' quality of life. We interviewed residents of 121 randomly selected households in both counties between October and November 2010. We asked residents about their experience with mosquitoes in their neighborhood, the importance of the ability to relax outdoors without mosquitoes compared to other neighborhood characteristics (1=not important, 5=extremely important). We rated residents' utility (where 0 is equivalent to death, and 1 to perfect health) based on paired comparisons to known states from the EuroQol health description system. The majority (54.6%) of respondents considered mosquitoes to be a problem, rating the severity of the mosquito problem as moderate (30.6%), severe (12.4%), or extremely horrible (11.6%). Respondents reported an average (± standard deviation) of 7.1±4.0 mosquito bites in a typical week during the summer. Mosquitoes prevented 59.5% of residents from enjoying their outdoor activities at least to some extent. Residents rated their mosquito experience during that summer on a scale of 100 (no mosquitoes) to 0 (mosquito invasion) at 56.7±28.7, and their overall utility at 0.87±0.03--comparable to living with up to two risk factors for diabetes (i.e., abdominal obesity, BMI of 28 or more, reported cholesterol problems, diagnosis of hypertension, and history of cardiovascular disease) or women experiencing menstrual disorders. Respondents rated the importance of enjoying outdoors activities without mosquitoes (4.69±0.80) comparable to that of neighborhood safety (4.74±0.80) and higher than that of a clean neighborhood (4.59±0.94). In conclusion, these New Jersey residents reported a 0.13±0.03 decrement in utility due to mosquitoes—comparable to worrisome health risks—and freedom from mosquitoes was important.