Noise Disturbance

Aircraft noise pollution may cause weight gain

Living close to an airport can make it difficult to ignore the annoying sound of airplanes taking off and landing all day.

However, researchers from Oregon State University and Boston University’s School of Public Health have found that noise pollution may have an unrecognized negative impact on health: it may encourage weight gain. Their findings were published in the journal Environment International.

Their research shows that self-reported BMI is higher in those who are exposed to aircraft noise levels above 45 dB, and that body weight changes since the age of 18.

“A 45dB noise level is quieter than a typical home conversation (50dB) and slightly above the hushed tones of a library (40dB),” the researchers wrote.

Data from 74,848 nurses who lived close to the 90 major airports between 1995 and 2010 were used in the US study. During this time, researchers measured aircraft noise levels every five years using a 24-hour time span and accounting for differences in noise levels during the day and night.

BMI changes starting at age 18 were also computed. According to the study’s findings, older adults appear to be more vulnerable to the relationship between aircraft noise pollution and weight gain than younger adults.

Participants who lived in arid climates, on the US west coast, or who had previously smoked also showed stronger associations.

Our bodies might not have adapted to the constant input of noise that permeates our modern world. According to study co-author Junenette Peters, noise affects stress responses, which can set off a chain of events that can result in a higher BMI and eventually disease.

The experts offer a theory for regional differences, but they haven’t determined why ex-smokers appear to be disproportionately impacted.

“It’s possible that study participants who lived in the west were more exposed to aircraft noise because of open windows or the type of housing they occupied, which allowed more noise to penetrate,” Peters said. “Regional differences in temperature and humidity may influence behaviors such as window opening.”

Although this study employs a novel methodology to investigate the correlation between obesity and aircraft noise exposure at the national level in the United States, it is not the first to draw attention to the detrimental impacts of airport noise pollution on public health.

Specifically, aviation noise pollution has been linked to disturbed sleep patterns and a higher chance of developing cardiovascular conditions like diabetes and hypertension. The inhabitants of towns where aircraft noise is most prevalent have a higher risk of dying from myocardial infarction, according to French research published in 2020.