Living near a noisy main road in London shortens life expectancy, according to a new report published in the European Heart Journal.
By comparing noise levels with incidences of death across the whole M25 zone between 2003 and 2010, researchers at Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that on average, adults were four per cent more likely to die in noisy areas, and five per cent more likely to be admitted to hospital following a stroke.
The situation was particularly bad among the elderly, where the number of strokes went up nine per cent in noisy areas.
A noisy area is defined as somewhere with traffic noise higher than 60dB. The World Health Organisation recommends not living in a place where noise is greater than 55dB, which it considers to be the maximum for good health.
The reason, according to the researchers, is that noise contributes to cardiovascular problems, such as heart and blood vessel disease. They say this could be due to increased blood pressure, sleep problems and stress from the noise.
In London, most people live in areas with healthy levels of traffic noise, but for 1.6m this is not the case – they are surrounded by noise levels over 55dB.
Anna Hansell, co-author of the study, said:
From this type of study, we can't tell for certain what the risks of noise are to an individual, but these are likely to be small in comparison with known risk factors for circulatory diseases like diet, smoking, lack of exercise, and medical conditions such as raised blood pressure and diabetes.However, our study does raise important questions about the potential health effects of noise in our cities that need further investigation.