CTV News reports that a new European study has found that exposure to excessive traffic noise is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. What makes this study particularly interesting, is that “[a]lthough air pollution has already been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, asthma, and risk of death, and noise pollution linked to raised blood pressure, disturbed sleep, and an increase in stress hormones, until now little research has been carried out on the effects of noise pollution and air pollution — which are often found together — on health.”
For purposes of the study, “noise pollution” was defined as “noise louder than conversation level — around 60 decibels (dB).” To determine the effect of noise pollution on health, “the researchers tested the participants’ blood for a range of biological markers that could indicate heart disease…and blood sugar levels, which are linked to heart disease, diabetes and stroke at higher levels.” After taking into account lifestyle factors (age, sex, smoking habits, etc.), the researchers found “an increase of just 5dB in noise levels was linked to 0.3% higher blood sugar levels than those living in quieter neighborhoods.”
But the bad news about noise pollution doesn’t end there. The researchers “also believe noise could be increasing the risk of heart disease by causing long-term psychological stress due to lack of sleep and an increase in the production of stress hormones.”
The results should not be entirely surprising. Anna Hansell, one of the authors of the new study, was the lead author on a study linking noise to adverse health effects in BMJ in 2013, and a senior author on another study linking road traffic noise and cardiovascular morbidity, in 2015.
Additional studies will follow, as the researchers intend to continue their efforts “to add to the limited body of research in this area.”