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Published on July 8th, 2015 | by James Ayre

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Traffic Noise Reduces Life Expectancy & Increases Risk Of Stroke, Research Finds

July 8th, 2015 by  


New research from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, King’s College London, and Imperial College London, has found that prolonged, repeated exposure to traffic noise appears to be correlated with a decreased life expectancy and an increased risk of stroke.

This new research follows on the heels of much recent research that shows a correlation between the air pollution caused be vehicle emissions and a large number of serious diseases and ailments.

Traffic jam via Shutterstock

The findings are the result of the analysis of data concerning 8.6 million residents of various portions of London, gathered between the years of 2003 and 2010. The researchers involved in this work utilized the data to discern patterns relating to variations in road traffic noise in the various postal codes. The data was divided and organized with regard to variations based on the time of day.

Data relating to deaths and hospital admissions in a given area were then compared, with the data for those between the age of 25–74 kept separate from the data for those over the age of 75.

Apparently, in places where the average traffic noise was higher than 60 decibels, people were found to be 4% more likely to die than in areas where the average was under 55 dB. The vast majority of this disparity was found to be relating to deaths via heart disease or circulatory disease. So, in other words, deaths that can be assumed to be related (at least in part) to sleep, stress, and blood pressure problems.

Additionally, adults that lived in places where traffic noise was over 60 dB were apparently 5% more prone to experience a stroke — as compared against those living in quieter areas. Traffic noise during the night hours, in particular, seems to have an outsized effect — increasing stroke risk by 5% (for the elderly).

These findings aren’t likely to surprise anyone who’s lived in both noisy city areas and also in quieter places — the effect on health is pretty obvious to anyone that pays any attention to their wellbeing. That said, perhaps having this reality supported by scientific studies will lead to changes of some sort….

One way to improve the situation, perhaps not fully but to a notable degree, would be to switch to electric vehicles. Another bigger effect would come from a societal switch to bicycling for transportation needs.

Image Credit: Traffic jam via Shutterstock






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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • Jason hm

    Correlation =/ Causation. I imagine all sorts of other variables correlate to noise polluted real estate. Lower property value,reduced income,increased air pollution even something like the volatile organics in asphalt there are thousand of things to consider.

    • JamesWimberley

      Read the story of the cholera outbreak in London stopped after a statistical analysis pointed to a single public water pump. That was before the germ theory of disease was established.

      • Doug Cutler

        James, you’re usually spot on and highly informed but I think Jason is right on this one. Studies of this sort have to be regarded with the utmost scientific discipline and that means the correlation fallacy is in play. The confluence of traffic noise and air pollution is an obvious confounding variable. In order to tease out the real vector of causation you would need to study similar noise effects on populations where air pollution and other similar elements are not a factor. I’m not sure what these conditions would be. Hopefully, in the near future we may have a few high traffic locations dominated by electric vehicles for a comparison.

        Also, by assuming noise is the main causal factor in this instance it opens the door for charges of double standard when others argue absent good, controlled evidence that noise effects of wind turbines are a health hazard.

  • Folatt

    How does that compare to the effect of a continuous stream of mildly annoying scare articles based on correlation that eventually makes my blood boil?

    • Bob_Wallace

      How?

      It can kill you. And it is killing others.

      Your irritation is nothing important compared to the life of a child.

    • JamesWimberley

      Really? You don’t think there is experimental evidence about the effects of noise in controlled conditions? It’s been used IIRC as a method of torture.

  • RT2

    It is generally agreed that people are 100% certain to die and accepting this as true it is not possible to be “4% more likely to die”. Likely to die at a 4% faster rate ?

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