Link shown between transportation noise and higher suicide risk

Photo credit: Liza Summer

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Swiss researchers looking into the impact of environmental factors on mental health have found that individuals exposed to transportation noise had a higher risk to death by suicide, with exposure to road traffic noise at home the major transportation source.

The study conducted by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute included over five million people, aged 15 and above for a period of 15 years. Three sources of transportation noise were examined: road traffic noise, rail noise, and aircraft noise. The study concluded that road traffic noise resulted in the highest risk. Rail noise affected individuals but less so, and aircraft noise had the least impact. Other factors, such as air pollution, were taken into consideration, allowing the results of a link between transportation noise and suicide to stand on its own.

Benedikt Wicki, a Ph.D. student at Swiss TPH and the first author of the study, acknowledges that noise can contribute to mental disorders or worsen preexisting conditions. Danielle Vienneau, a Swiss TPH researcher and the senior author of the study, said that transportation noise in one’s home agitates people and makes it difficult to cope with the stress from the noise.

The article ends with suggestions as to how to lessen road traffic noise, e.g. speed limits, lighter vehicles. As I have said before, the ways to lessen noise are available but do we have the will to employ them. I also ask how many more studies do we need to demonstrate that noise is harmful to our mental and physical health and well-being.

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