PhD study indicates flight ban until 6am could save £ millions on NHS prescriptions for health impacts
A PhD thesis by an economics researcher at Kings College London, Silvia Beghelli, looked at “The Health Effects of Noise and Air Pollution”. She looked at the medications prescribed to patients in areas affected by Heathrow planes, and the medical costs of the health impacts. She looked at a trial performed over 5 months at Heathrow in 2012, when planes did not fly over designated areas in the early mornings, between 4:30am and 6am. She found that fewer drugs were prescribed for respiratory and nervous system conditions in areas with the reduced air traffic. Mrs Beghelli cross-referenced NHS data with the trial’s findings and found a link between air traffic and health, notably a 5.8% decrease in spending on pills including anxiolytics for conditions such as insomnia, anxiety and depression in the no-fly zones. As well as meaning the quality of health of people in these areas must have been better, the lower prescribing saved the NHS money. She calculated that modifying flight schedules could save £5 million in NHS prescription costs. It could also cut demand for hospital appointments. The study suggests that early morning planes are causing people to need more prescriptions.
Flight ban until 6am could save millions on NHS prescriptions
By Mark Blunden, Technology Correspondent (Evening Standard)
15-11-2018 – p.29
STOPPING planes from ﬂying over London’s most densely populated areas
in time early morning could save the NHS millions of pounds, a study has found.
“Exclusion zones” would prevent Londoners from being woken with a start and would suffer fewer pollution-related breathing problems, the Kings College London research suggested.
The Health Effects of Noise and Air Pollution PhD thesis by economics researcher Silvia Beghelli focused on the “medical cost of air traffic pollution”. It found that in Heathrow’s 2012 trial ban of ﬂights between 4:30am and 6am, fewer drugs were prescribed for respiratory and nervous system conditions in areas with reduced air traffic.
Mrs Beghelli cross-referenced NHS data with the trial’s findings and found a link between air traffic and health, notably a 5.8% decrease in spending on pills for conditions such as insomnia and depression in the no-fly zones. She calculated that modifying flight schedules could save £5 million in NHS prescription costs.
The study also found “statistically significant increases” in visits for nervous and respiratory conditions at hospitals near seven UK airports.
A Heathrow spokeswoman said the airport has strict limits on flights but will be consulting on the trail’s results to see how flight noise may be reduced overnight as part of expansion plans.
Not online, but in the paper version of the Standard.
The PhD thesis that these findings come from is at
Some quotes from the PhD thesis:
“The HYENA cross-sectional study detects a positive correlation between aircraft noise and the consumption of anxiolytic and antihypertensive medications in European countries.”
“We exploit a five-month trial that took place around London Heathrow airport from November 2012 to March 2013. The trial involved changes in patterns of aircraft landings during early morning hours (4.30 am to 6.00 am). Health effects are measured through changes in medication prescribing by GP practice. We find a statistically significant response of monthly medication spending on central nervous and respiratory system conditions to these changes, and weak effects for circulatory conditions. Crucially, significant reductions in prescription spending on nervous and respiratory conditions are detected for the regions that experienced a drop in air traffic during the trial.”
Aircraft noise at smaller airports, likely to have negative mental health impact if they have night flights
Aircraft noise from large airports has been frequently linked to harm to mental health, as well as physical health, but it is not known whether the same is true for smaller airports. In this blog, Dr David Wright, lead author of a recently published article in Environmental Health, looked at how much aircraft noise around a smaller airport – Belfast City – affected mental health. It has about 40,000 annual flights, compared to Heathrow 75,000. There is growing evidence that noise generated by large airports also affects the mental health of local residents (see NORAH and HYENA, the two largest studies). As more airlines are flying direct between smaller airports, no longer using hubs, this is an important issue. The study looked at individual and household characteristics, overlaid with noise contours. It found there was a correlation of worse mental health in areas near the airport, under the flight path. But these areas were often poorer, and poverty increases the risk of mental ill-health – so wealth rather than aircraft noise best explains the findings. However, Belfast City airport does not have night flights (21:30 to 06:30), and it is noise that disturbs sleep that has the main impacts on mental health. “Setting sensible curfew hours would strike a balance between the economic benefits and health risks of living close to an airport.”