It’s official: traffic noise has become one of the UK’s most significant urban health threats. New research from universities, including Oxford and Imperial College London, has revealed an increasing prevalence of heart disease, stroke and even diabetes among those living with high levels of traffic noise, says a report in The Sunday Times (17 June 2018).
Scientists have long suspected traffic noise of damaging health after earlier studies revealed people living under airport flight paths had an increased incidence of stroke, heart disease and cardiovascular problems due to constantly disturbed sleep. Now researchers have found road noise and other disturbances could have a similar effect.
In addition Public Health England, the government health watchdog, is reported as saying the dangers of noise, particularly at night, is an emerging major health problem.
The latest research findings by Imperial College follows an analysis of health data of 356,000 people in Britain and Norway. It coincides with separate research from Switzerland, where scientists found that exposure to night-time noise causes stress which, if maintained over months or years, accelerates the onset of heart disease and other conditions.
Another study, from Barts and the London School of Medicine, found that noise pollution from traffic was linked to the increased prevalence of diabetes.
“Residential transport noise can cause sleep loss, which has metabolic consequences in terms of glucose regulation, appetite, and energy expenditure,” said the researchers.
One problem for scientists is separating the effects of noise from the other health impacts of traffic, such as the toxic particles and gases that cause an estimated 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. However, a separate study by Imperial College found the same effect in people exposed to noise from aircraft, which release toxins too high up to affect health directly. Hospital admissions and mortality in areas near Heathrow airport, were associated with such noise, said the scientists.