So it seems they do it on purpose. Coughing in concerts. Report on latest research is here.
But here are a few points that appear not to have been taken into consideration.
1. Pre-emptive coughing. You cough when you can, in the breaks between movements, because you can. And because you know you that in another moment won't be able to and if you're afraid you might need to then you get it out of the way first, just in case.
2. Nervous coughing. There's nothing like being unable to do something to make you feel a terrible urge to do it. This can manifest itself quite physically, in the form of a truly ghastly scratch at the back of the throat that makes your eyes water and your hands sweat and you feel you can't breathe, and you really do have to cough. Believe me, I've experienced this - about ten years ago I had a phase of a few months in which it happened to me every time I went into the RFH. It started, and later stopped, for no particular reason.
3. No drinks in very dry concert halls coughing. I'm not thinking of beer. I'm thinking of nice, fresh, cough-cooling WATER. The air inside concert halls can become very, very dry, which sets off coughing because your throat dries out. The concretey Barbican is a case in point, but it can happen anywhere. Daring members of an audience will often smuggle in a small bottle of spring water in case of coughing. But I'm sure plenty others don't dare, because we're not supposed to take drinks into a classical concert. Nuff and stonsense. Water should be mandatory.
4. I'm not too happy about the idea that we cough because we're bored. But the fact remains that people cough less if they're really focused on what is going on. The more exciting a performance is, the less coughing there tends to be.
5. Why do people cough more in the quiet bits? I'm not convinced they do. It's just that in the loud bits, you can't hear them!