Prolonged exposure to traffic noise linked to increased rate of heart attack

David Kirkwood
June 27, 2012

COPENHAGEN—Living close to a busy city street or highway has various drawbacks. The constant traffic noise is annoying and may also pose a threat to one’s hearing. But recently, a group of European scientists, led by Mette Sørensen of the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, has reported that long-term exposure to the noise of road traffic is associated with a heightened risk of heart attack.

The findings of the study were reported in the June 20 issue of PLoS One, a free, open-access, online publication of the Public Library of Science (PLoS).

The ten authors, who are associated with various scientific organizations in Denmark and the Netherlands, used data collected from a cohort of 57,053 people who ranged in age from 50 to 64 years when they enrolled in the study, from 1993 to 1997. Scientists followed the cohort and identified 1600 cases of first-ever heart attacks between the time the subjects joined the study and 2006.

The exposure of cohort members to traffic noise and air pollution from 1988 to 2006 was estimated based on their residential address history. The researchers then analyzed the data looking for a possible association between exposure to traffic noise and heart attack. In their analysis they made adjustments for confounding factors such as air pollution, age, gender, other noise exposure, and lifestyle.

The results showed a clear relationship between traffic noise and heart attack, with a 12% higher risk for every 10 dB of noise exposure. The exact reason for this relationship is not clear, but may be due to increased stress and sleep disturbances associated with high traffic noise.

PLoS, which is based in San Francisco, publishes seven peer-reviewed free journals in various scientific fields. 

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