Health effects of noise

Exposure to road noise may be linked to serious effects on health. Every year, several hundred people in Denmark are thought to suffer an early death as a result of exposure to road noise.

Health effects according to the World Health Organization 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , traffic noise may lead to annoyance and health effects, such as communication problems, headaches, sleep disturbance, stress, high blood pressure, an increased risk of heart disease and hormonal effects.

Noise can also affect productivity, children's learning and motivation. Thus, noise has a health impact on people and in the long term can lead to actual effects on health. Noise during the night, in particular, is thought to be harmful as it contributes to sleep difficulties, reduction in the quality of sleep, sleep disturbance and waking up earlier.

New WHO survey

A survey by the WHO in April 2011 concluded that one in three Europeans experiences annoyance from noise during daytime, whilst one in five experiences sleep disturbance due to traffic noise at night. The noise impact increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

The report concludes that traffic noise costs at least 1,000,000 healthy life years per year in Western Europe.

Download Burden of disease from environmental noise (PDF, 3.15MB)

Health impact in Denmark due to traffic noise

In connection with the development of the Danish Road Noise Strategy in 2003, a first attempt was made to assess the scope of consequences on health.

A cautious estimate of between 800 and 2,200 persons in Denmark has been suggested as the annual number of hospital admittances for patients with raised blood pressure or heart disease as a result of the added risk posed by traffic noise.

It was also estimated that traffic noise is a factor in 200-500 premature deaths each year as a result of high blood pressure and heart disease.

New summary of health effects of road noise

Part of the Road Noise Strategy's evaluation in 2010 was a summary of health effects of road noise, carried out by the University of Stockholm. The evaluation confirms that there are serious health effects linked to exposure to traffic noise above the recommended limit values.

This also confirms that traffic noise causes sick days, and that several hundred members of the Danish population suffer premature death each year.

Download the summary of health effects of road noise (2009) (in Swedish) (PDF, 393KB)

A new Danish study shows link between noise and risk of stroke

A Danish study has shown that people living where traffic noise is very high have an increased risk of stroke, i.e. cerebral bleeding or blood clots.

The study used data from the Danish "Diet, Cancer and Health" study in which more than 57,000 people participated. The research team used addresses of cohort members from 1993 to 2006 and calculated the traffic noise for these addresses.

The number of people suffering from strokes in the cohort was registered for the period 1993-2006. The study took into consideration smoking habits, education, air pollution and other such variables with regard to the effects of noise.

Assuming the used data is correct, calculations show that 5 percent of strokes are due to traffic noise. This corresponds to approximately 600 new strokes in Denmark every year.

Read the article: Road traffic noise and stroke: a prospective cohort study (2010)