Why do our concert halls so often sound more like hospital wards? A new study points the finger.

For years, sporadic coughing during concerts has evoked frustration yet remained a notoriously enigmatic phenomenon. However, a new report entitled Why do people (not) cough in concerts? may have some of the answers.  Research carried out by Professor Andreas Wagener from the University of Hannover suggests that coughing spells are deliberate, and are particularly prevalent amongst classical music audiences.

A healthy adult coughs around 16 times a day but Wagener’s report finds that your average concertgoer coughs at 0.025 times a minute, which works out at 36 coughs per day, more than twice the norm. Even allowing for the older demographic at classical concerts the statistic is startling.

What’s more, if coughing were purely accidental, it should be evenly distributed throughout a concert. But the professor maintains that the volume of coughing fluctuates, depending on the complexity of the music, with quieter, “boring” moments generating louder, more disruptive coughs than “interesting” sections. “It is the more modern pieces of 20th century classical music, it is the more quiet and slow movements that are interrupted by coughs,” Wagener said.

Worse still, it turns out...

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