Diabetes and noise pollution, is there a connection?
A new study from the University of British Columbia finds that people living near traffic-dense roads have a higher risk of developing diabetes due to the added noise pollution. The results should inform public health considerations for city planners, say the authors, who argue that further research is needed on the many environmental factors associated with modern living that can impact public health.
Evidence continues to mount concerning the connection between noise exposure and a range of health indicators. Research has shown, for instance, that chronically high levels of noise pollution can lead to high blood pressure, with one study reporting a seven to 17 per cent increase in risk of heart attack and stroke associated with a 10-decibel rise in road traffic noise.
Experts say that the continuing drone of highway traffic is thought to impact physiological stress reactions, which are linked not only to blood pressure concerns but to other metabolism-related factors such as blood fats and blood glucose. Indeed, a 2015 Swedish study of more than 5,000 adults in suburban and semi-rural areas near Stockholm found that those regularly exposed to loud traffic noise were 18 per cent more likely to be obese.
Now, researchers with the School of Population and Public Health and the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC have drawn similar conclusions concerning diabetes. The study used provincial Ministry of Health records of all metropolitan Vancouver adult residents between the ages of 45 and 84 who had lived in the area during a five-year period between 1994 and 1998 and correlated the results with estimations of traffic-related noise as well as air pollutants based on land-use registries.
The researchers found that during those years, the average transportation noise exposure for people in the Vancouver cohort was 63 decibels and that even after accounting for other factors, those living in areas of higher than average noise pollution had a 6 per cent greater chance of developing diabetes.
“This large-scale population-based cohort study found robust associations between residential transportation noise exposure and the incidence of diabetes,” say the study’s authors. “These associations were not explained by spatially varying environmental coexposures (a range of traffic-related air pollutants, greenness, walkability) or by ethnicity.”
The study did not find a significant correlation between higher than average air pollution levels and the incidence of diabetes but, on the other hand, did conclude that both the greenness of one’s neighbour and its walkability were protective factors against diabetes.
The researchers say that the clear connections between noise pollution and metabolic risks for diseases like diabetes “should be considered when developing public health interventions.”
The new study is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Another recent study of traffic noise in two of Denmark’s largest cities, Copenhagen and Aarhus found that the probability that a person exercises daily decreases by five per cent for every ten decibels of noise increase. Sleep disturbance is said to be the culprit, as poor sleep at night can impact one’s motivation to exercise the following day.