Traffic noise raises hypertension, finds study examining 240,000 people

It seems roaring engines, honking horns, and wailing sirens are not only stressing, but they could also raise blood pressure.
Mert Erdemir
Rush hour traffic jam in downtown Los Angeles.
Rush hour traffic jam in downtown Los Angeles.


A new study conducted by the American College of Cardiology researchers has revealed that constant exposure to road noise, roaring engines, honking horns, and wailing sirens could raise blood pressure, according to an institutional press release.

Earlier research has already established a link between noisy road traffic and a higher risk of developing hypertension, but there was a lack of robust evidence, and it was unclear which factor, noise or air pollution, was more significant.

The new study is significant for establishing that it is exposure to traffic noise that increases hypertension risk.

"We were a little surprised that the association between road traffic noise and hypertension was robust even after adjustment for air pollution," said Jing Huang, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health at Peking University in Beijing, China.

A large-scale study of 240,000 people

For this new study, the researchers examined data from more than 240,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69 who did not have hypertension at the start of the study. They used the Common Noise Assessment Method, a European modeling tool, to estimate road traffic noise based on the participants' residential addresses.

Using follow-up data over eight years, the researchers examined the number of individuals who developed hypertension. They discovered that individuals living near road traffic noise were not only more likely to develop hypertension, but the risk of developing hypertension increased with an increase in the level of noise exposure.

Even after taking into account exposure to fine particles and nitrogen dioxide, these correlations remained valid. Nevertheless, those who were exposed to both traffic noise and air pollution at high levels exhibited the greatest risk of hypertension, indicating that air pollution also has an impact.

“Road traffic noise and traffic-related air pollution coexist around us,” Huang said. “It is essential to explore the independent effects of road traffic noise, rather than the total environment.”

The fact that study findings confirm the link between hypertension and exposure to road traffic noise could support public health measures. New policies could help reduce the adverse effects of road traffic noise. This can be achieved through measures such as implementing stricter noise regulations and enforcement, enhancing road infrastructure and urban planning, and investing in newer technologies for quieter vehicles.

"To date, this is the first large-sized prospective study directly addressing the effect of road traffic noise on the incidence of newly-diagnosed hypertension," said Jiandong Zhang, cardiovascular disease fellow in the division of cardiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and author of the accompanying editorial comment.

"The data demonstrated in this article provides a higher quality of evidence to justify the potential to modify road traffic noise and air pollution from both individual and societal levels in improving cardiovascular health."

The study was published in JACC Advances.

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