Living in noisy areas may shorten life

Living in a neighborhood with a lot of noise pollution isn't just annoying, it can also be life-threatening, according to a new study. Published in the European Heart Journal, the study found that people who live near major, noisy roadways are at a greater risk of stroke and have a shorter life expectancy than those who live in quieter areas.

Drawing on data from about 8.6 million people who lived in London between 2003 and 2010, the researchers analyzed death rates as compared to traffic noise levels in different neighborhoods. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the cutoff amount of noise that people can be exposed to constantly without health problems is 55 decibels.

The researchers found that residents of areas with road noise levels louder than 55 decibels were 5 percent more likely to be admitted to the hospital for a stroke. Elderly people living in these areas were the worst off, with a 9 percent higher rate of hospitalization for stroke. Noisy neighborhoods were also linked to a 4 percent higher rate of death from all causes.

"Road traffic noise has previously been associated with sleep problems and increased blood pressure, but our study is the first in the U.K. to show a link with deaths and strokes," study author Jaana Halonen of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said in a statement. 

However, co-author Dr. Anna Hansell emphasized that the risks posed by road noise to any given individual are likely to pale in comparison to the risk of more concrete lifestyle factors, like lack of exercise and poor diet.

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