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Why airplane noise is bad for your health

Airplane noise may increase the risk of developing cardiometabolic diseases, a cluster of conditions such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and hypertension, a new study shows. According to the study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) and Oregon State University, people who were exposed to higher levels of noise from aircraft were more likely to have a higher body mass index, an indicator for obesity that can lead to stroke or hypertension.

Based on the research, which was published in the journal Environment International, airplane noise exposure at 45 dB or above was associated with having higher BMI in middle to late adulthood from early adulthood.

BMI is an indicator of general obesity, which can lead to cardiometabolic diseases, as well as a range of other health issues. The researchers examined airplane noise exposure and self-reported BMI and other individual characteristics among nearly 75,000 participants living around 90 of the major US airports. The team examined aircraft noise levels every five years from 1995 to 2010, using a day-night estimate that captures the average noise level over a 24-hour period and applies a 10 dB adjustment for aircraft noise occurring at night, when background noise is low.

According to Dr Junenette Peters, study senior author and associate professor of environmental health at BUSPH, there are various factors that may play out including housing age, design, and level of insulation. Similarly, the stronger associations observed in arid climates, many of which are also in the Western US, may relate to the way noise travels under various atmospheric conditions. “Regional differences in temperature and humidity may influence behaviours such as window opening, so perhaps study participants living in the West were more exposed to aircraft noise due to open windows or housing type, which allowed more noise to penetrate.”

According to the study’s lead and corresponding author Dr Matthew Bozigar, assistant professor of epidemiology, prior research has shown that aircraft noise can elevate stress responses and disturb sleep, but there has been mixed evidence of any links with body mass index.

Though there is a lot more to figure out, the study adds evidence to a growing body of literature that noise negatively impacts health,”added Dr Bozigar. According to the World Health Organization, important sources for environmental noise exposure are road, railway and air traffic, or building sites. Noise exposure can also occur through other sources such as wind turbines, and leisure activities such as listening to loud music or other audio content including participation in e-sports (video and computer game competitions).