Road traffic noise increases risk of diabetes
The body of evidence on health impacts of noise is growing. After links to heart disease and children’s impaired learning, a new Danish study shows how noise may be associated with an increased risk of diabetes, a health challenge for the whole of Europe.
Noise from cars, buses, lorries, from airplanes and industrial processes is an important risk factor for our health. The World Health Organisation recently concluded that this environmental noise is the second biggest health threat after air pollution; and a large number of Europeans are living in noisy surroundings that can permanently damage their health. In addition, quieter surroundings can tremendously improve the quality of life in a city.
Previous research has shown that for every 10 decibels higher exposure to traffic noise in residential neighbourhoods, the risk of a heart attack increases by 12 percent. In a new Danish study, partly conducted under the EU QUIET1 project, researchers investigated if noise exposure was related to the risk of developing diabetes.
Over 50,000 residents of Copenhagen and Aarhus, aged between 50 and 64, were signed up to the study, which ran until 2006. Researchers recorded the address of each individual since 1988 and combined it with spatial information on noise for example, the average number of vehicles, their speed, and type of road and height of surrounding buildings. This was recorded in order to assess how much noise each person was exposed to. Then, instances of diabetes diagnoses for the participating residents were taken.
Researchers were careful to rule out other aspects that could increase the risk of diabetes such as diet and smoking. Overall, 3,869 individuals were diagnosed with diabetes during the study. The results demonstrated that an increase in average noise exposure of 10 decibels was associated with a significantly higher risk of diabetes. One explanation for this increase is that the body produces more stress hormones because of noise, which then leads to reduced insulin production.
Originally posted on 7 June 2013