People who live close to an airport and are constantly barraged by the sound of planes taking off are at increased risk of heart disease, research suggests.
A study found that people who were exposed to the highest noise levels, particularly at night, were at greater risk of developing high blood pressure and heart flutter.
The study only showed an association, rather than being proof that the airport noise was causing health problems, although the scientists took into account socioeconomic background and various other predictors of health of the participant. The work builds on a growing body of evidence showing the detrimental health effects of noise exposure.
The latest study, published in the online journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, used data from 420 people living near Athens International Airport in Greece between 2004-6, where up to 600 planes take off and land every day.
Around half of the participants were exposed to more than 55dB of daytime (between 7am and 11pm) aircraft noise, while around one in four were exposed to more than 45dB of night-time aircraft noise.
In the decade following the study, 71 of the participants were newly diagnosed with high blood pressure and 44 were diagnosed with heart flutter (cardiac arrhythmia).
Exposure to aircraft noise, particularly at night, was associated with high blood pressure, with every additional 10dB of night-time aircraft noise translating to a 69% heightened risk of the condition. There was also a link between the risk of heart flutter and night-time aircraft noise.
A previous study, of people living near Heathrow Airport, found that those with the highest noise exposure were 10-20% more likely to be admitted to hospital for stroke, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
Original Article – BMJ (British Medical Journal)
We followed up, in 2013, the subjects who lived near the Athens International Airport and had participated in the cross-sectional multicountry HYENA study in 2004–2006.
Objective To evaluate the association of exposure to aircraft and road traffic noise with the incidence of hypertension and other cardiovascular outcomes.
From the 780 individuals who participated in the cross-sectional study, 537 were still living in the same area and 420 accepted to participate in the follow-up. Aircraft and road traffic noise exposure was based on the estimations conducted in 2004–2006, linking geocoded residential addresses of the participants to noise levels. We applied multiple logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards models, adjusting for potential confounders.
The incidence of hypertension was significantly associated with higher aircraft noise exposure during the night. Specifically, the OR for hypertension per 10 dB increase in Lnight aircraft noise exposure was 2.63 (95% CI 1.21 to 5.71). Doctor-diagnosed cardiac arrhythmia was significantly associated with Lnight aircraft noise exposure, when prevalent and incident cases were considered with an OR of 2.09 (95% CI 1.07 to 4.08). Stroke risk was also increased with increasing noise exposure but the association was not significant. Twenty-four-hour road traffic noise associations with the outcomes considered were weaker and less consistent.
In conclusion, our cohort study suggests that long-term exposure to aircraft noise, particularly during the night, is associated with incident hypertension and possibly, also, cardiovascular effects.