Research from the University of Oxford and the University of Leicester (published in Environmental Research 17 August 2020) has found that people who live close to noisy roads are more likely to be obese. Data from more than half a million people living in the UK, Norway and the Netherlands ‘revealed an association between those living in high traffic-noise areas and obesity at a 2 per cent increase in obesity… for every 10dB of added noise,’ according to Samuel Cai,the main author and senior epidemiologist at Oxford, even after taking into account air pollution, smoking, diet and levels of exercise. More than 100 million people in Europe live in areas where traffic noise is greater than 55dB, the health threshold set by the EU. Anna Hansell, a co-author, said: ‘The hypothesis goes that noise is a general environmental stressor, so it’s going to be raising your cortisol levels, like any other form of stress. We know that is more likely to give you central obesity, because it predisposes you to store the weight around your middle.’
This is further evidence that noise, sometimes still seen as a minor irritant, is a major health risk due to the stress it brings. (Stress also depresses the immune system and raises blood pressure). Piped music has much the same ill effects as traffic noise. Both are often unwanted and inescapable.