Constant exposure to traffic noise may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, British researchers report, the New York Times reports.
Scientists used data on road traffic noise and hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease in London from 2003 to 2010, tracking all-cause and cardiovascular death rates for neighborhoods with varying noise levels. Over the period, there were 400,494 hospital admissions for cardiovascular causes.
Compared with average noise levels below 55 decibels, levels above 60 decibels were associated with higher rates of hospital admissions for stroke — 5 percent higher among people 25 to 74 and about 9 percent higher among those over 75. All-cause mortality was 4 percent higher for people in noisy neighborhoods. The study, published last week in The European Heart Journal, adjusted for age, sex, socioeconomic factors, ethnicity, smoking and air pollution.
Sixty decibels is not especially loud, comparable to the sound in a crowded restaurant. But the researchers suggest that the cumulative effect of constant noise over years could be significant.
The lead author, Jaana I. Halonen, a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the increase in risk was small compared with conventional risk factors like physical inactivity and hypertension.
“This was a 4 percent increase,” she said. “Smoking might double the risk.” Still, she added, “This is preliminary epidemiological evidence of a relationship between traffic noise and morbidity and mortality.”