Living near noisy road raises risk of early death, stroke

Living near noisy road raises risk of early death, stroke

Living in an area with noisy road traffic may reduce life expectancy as well as increase the risk of strokes, scientists have warned.

The research led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in partnership with Imperial College London and King's College London found a link between long-term exposure to road traffic noise and deaths, as well as a greater risk of stroke, particularly in the elderly.

Researchers analysed data for 8.6 million people living in London between 2003 and 2010.

They looked at levels of road traffic noise during the day (7am-11pm) and at night (11pm-7am) across different postcodes, comparing this to deaths and hospital admissions in each area for adults (aged 25 and over) and the elderly (aged 75 and over).

Deaths were 4 per cent more common among adults and the elderly in areas with daytime road traffic noise of more than 60 decibel (dB) compared to areas with less than 55 decibel (dB).

The researchers said the deaths are most likely to be linked to heart or blood vessel disease (cardiovascular disease). They said this could be due to increased blood pressure, sleep problems and stress from the noise.

Adults living in areas with the noisiest daytime traffic (more than 60dB) were 5 per cent more likely to be admitted to hospital for stroke compared to those who lived in quieter areas (less than 55dB).

For the elderly, this increase in risk rose to 9 per cent.

Night time noise (55-60 dB) from road traffic was also associated with a 5 per cent increased stroke risk, but only in the elderly.

"Road traffic noise has previously been associated with sleep problems and increased blood pressure, but our study is the first in the UK to show a link with deaths and strokes," said lead author Dr Jaana Halonen from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

"Our findings contribute to the body of evidence suggesting reductions in traffic noise could be beneficial to our health," Halonen said.

"From this type of study, we can't tell for certain what the risks of noise are to an individual, but these are likely to be small in comparison with known risk factors for circulatory diseases like diet, smoking, lack of exercise, and medical conditions such as raised blood pressure and diabetes," said co-author Dr Anna Hansell at Imperial College London.

"However, our study does raise important questions about the potential health effects of noise in our cities that need further investigation," Hansell said.
The research was published in the European Heart Journal.  

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