And, if that’s not enough to send you searching for an isolation chamber you can cart around with you, according to another recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO), noise from rail and road transport is linked to 50,000 fatal heart attacks every year in Europe and 200,000 cases of cardio-vascular disease.
That bears repeating: 50,000 fatal heart attacks annually, and 200,000 cases of cardio-vascular disease – and these are the numbers that can definitely be linked to noise, accounting for roughtly 10 percent of Europe’s health care budget.
WHO researchers claim that slightly less than two percent of heart attacks in high income European countries can be attributed to traffic noise levels higher than 60 decibels. Still, cardiovascular disease is the largest cause of death in the EU and accounts for approximately 10% of national healthcare budgets.
Sorenson gives us reason to hope though, by stating that sleep disturbances in and of themselves can contribute to cardiovascular disease risk, which would lead to a hypothesis that exposure to noise during the night might be more harmful than daytime exposure. So maybe the answer is to sleep in a quiet place?
Sorenson also pointed out that that changes in lifestyle caused by disrupted sleep could play a role in the heightened risk of heart attack as well. For instance, she says that stress and sleep disturbances can cause changes to lifestyle habits, including increased tobacco smoking, thus a potentially stronger association between traffic noise and heart attack among smokers.
But before we all breath a collective sigh of relief and go back to blaming heart attacks solely on cigarettes and poor sleep habits, Sorensen said her study did indeed find indications of an escalated rate of heart attacks in people subjected to road traffic noise who never smoked. Gotcha!
The population targeted for this study consisted of people who lived mainly in urban areas, and researchers did not rule out that other factors could be at play. But they kept coming back to traffic noise as the real culprit.
“Traffic noise in cities is an important public health issue,” said Ann Stauffer of the Health and Environment Alliance headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
In addition, evidence shows that noise escalates incidents of stroke, especially in the older population, and affects children’s ability to learn.
New data on the harm noise is reaping on our bodies is surfacing every day it seems. The next step is to raise the awareness flag, get medical professionals in on the discussion, and become activists for establishing effective anti-noise legislation. People need to become proactive about lowering the planet’s decibel levels.
And find a place to sleep that’s quiet, if you can. Go on, save yourselves!