Ground-breaking seminar on aircraft noise and mental health held in House of Commons

A ground-breaking seminar discussing the impact of aircraft noise on mental health was held in Parliament on 4th July. The seminar, by HACAN and the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) explored the issue. Hosted by Dr Tania Mathias, MP for Twickenham, the seminar heard from Dirk Schreckenberg, one of the authors of the seminal NORAH study which looked at the link between noise and health at Frankfurt Airport. The study found negative effects on both mental well-being and on depression, from plane noise – especially in people experiencing increased levels of noise. A resident from West London, Chris Keady, spoke about his own history of mental problems, and the effect of high levels of aircraft noise on him. Not enough is known about the impact of exposure to aircraft noise, especially loud noise, often repeated, at different times of day and night, on mental health and stress levels. The evidence suggests that people who already have mental health issues can find aircraft noise particularly disturbing. There is a real problem if there is no escape from the noise, and people feel powerless and impotent against this imposition. We need a constructive dialogue involving noise experts, politicians, campaigners and the aviation industry to give proper consideration to this issue. Matt Gorman from Heathrow Airport also spoke at the event.



AEF event highlights aircraft noise and mental health link


AEF and HACAN hosted a well attended event in Parliament this week which explored the relationship between aircraft noise and mental health. The event was chaired by Twickenham MP, Dr Tania Mathias.

Dirk Schreckenberg, from the Centre for Applied Psychology, Environmental and Social Science in Hagen, Germany, provided a summary of the findings of the NORAH study. This major piece of research from around Frankfurt Airport examined a wide range of health impacts associated with aircraft noise before and after a fourth runway was built. The study included ground-breaking research on the links between aircraft noise and depression, and the impacts of a change in noise exposure (associated with expansion or new flight paths) on quality of life and community annoyance. The full presentation can be downloaded using the link at the end of this article.

Also giving presentations were Chris Keady and Heathrow Airport’s Sustainability Director Matt Gorman. Chris Keady, who lives under the Heathrow flightpath and has suffered with depression reflected on how a flight path change had impacted on his wellbeing. Matt Gorman highlighted the steps the airport was taking to provide respite for communities affected by aircraft noise.

We hope that that the seminar provided a useful contribution to the debate on aircraft noise and mental health. We will be continuing our work to push the issue of the health effects of aircraft noise up the agenda this year.


Download: Presentation by Dirk Schreckenberg on the NORAH study

See also:

Findings of the NORAH study in Frankfurt, on effect of aircraft noise on mental well-being and depression

At the event in the House of Commons on 4th July, exploring the relationships between exposure to aircraft noise and mental health, a presentation was given by Dirk Schreckenberg, from Hagen, Germany. He is one of the research psychologists who worked on the NORAH study (Noise-Related Annoyance, Cognition, and Health) carried out in Frankfurt, before and after the opening of the 4th runway. The NORAH study is the largest and most comprehensive to look at the impacts of aircraft noise on people’s health and quality of life, and also its impacts on children. One sub-study looked at mental well-being, and another looked at depression. It was clear from the data that people were more annoyed and more affected by noise from the new runway, and at lower noise levels, than had been expected. Though the links are complicated, and not entirely linear, there is a clear link between worsening mental well-being and more plane noise. There was a clear relationship between depression and aircraft noise, with more depression at levels of noise that are widely experienced. The data form an inverted “U” shape graph, indicating less depression at the highest noise levels. The reasons are unclear, but may be a “healthy resident” effect.

Click here to view full story…




AEF report finds UK’s out-of-date aircraft noise policies putting the health of over one million people at risk

A new report by the AEF has identified that the Government’s aircraft noise policies are risking the health of over one million people and an urgent policy rethink is needed ahead of runway decisions in 2016. Aircraft noise is associated with increased risk of increased blood pressure, and higher risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke. Health is also detrimentally affected through sleep disturbance and annoyance. Aircraft noise impedes the memory and learning ability of school children. The UK’s aircraft noise policy has not been updated in line with this mounting evidence base, with some noise policies based on studies dating back to the early 1980s. The Government’s lack of response to emerging evidence on noise may be costing the UK £540 million each year.The noise problem is particularly acute at Heathrow, including many affected schools, but there are serious problems at many other airports too. The health burden is not just experienced close to airports, with high levels of noise miles from the runway. The current policy on flight paths does not consider the impact of sudden changes, or the health impacts of newly affected communities. The report calls for the Government to act now to reduce the health burden from aircraft noise. Long-term noise targets are needed to protect health, and all noise policies should be reviewed in the light of these targets. A new runway should only be permitted if the noise burdens are reduced.


The report: !Aircraft Noise and Public Health: the evidence is loud and clear”

AEF noise report 12.1.2016




New report finds aircraft noise policy puts the health of over one million people at risk

Government noise attitudes survey: people increasingly disturbed by aircraft noise