According to a study carried out by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, King's College London and Imperial College London, living close to noisy road traffic may be reducing life expectancy.
Published in the European Heart Journal, the study hints at a link between deaths and long-term exposure to road noise, as well as increased risks of strokes in the elderly. Analyzing data from 8.6 million individuals dwelling in London from 2003 to 2010, the researchers compared road traffic noise levels from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. across various postcodes with records of hospital admissions and deaths for adults 25 years old and above and the elderly 75 years old and above in each area.
Based on the researchers' findings, deaths were reported 4 percent more times in both groups living in areas with high traffic noise during the day reaching over 60dB as opposed to noise levels at below 55dB. According to the researchers, the deaths recorded during the study have a good chance of being associated with blood vessel or heart disease, which may have been caused by high blood pressure, stress and sleep problems arising from high levels of traffic noise on the road.
Adults in areas with the highest level of daytime traffic noise were also 5 percent more likely to end up admitted to the hospital due to strokes. During the night, road traffic noise also caused a 5 percent increase in stroke risk but this only manifested in the elderly.
Jaana Halonen, the lead author for the study, said that road noise has been associated previously with higher blood pressure levels and sleep problems but this is the first time in the United Kingdom that a link was established between noise levels and strokes and deaths. To date, the study was also the largest of its kind.
"Our findings contribute to the body of evidence suggesting reductions in traffic noise could be beneficial to our health," she stated.
The World Health Organization said traffic noise beyond 55dB is the level at which noise can cause health problems. In London, over 1.6 million people go through this level of noise from daytime traffic regularly.
The study received funding support from the Environmental Exposures & Health Initiative, a cross-research council. Cathryn Tonne, Anna Hansell, Frank Kelly, John Gulliver, Hugh Ross Anderson, David Morley, Sean Beevers, Marta Blangiardo, Mireille Toledano and Daniela Fecht also contributed to the research work.
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