Diabetes Forecast

Quiet Down! Study Finds Link Between Exposure to Traffic Noise and Obesity

What to Know

Traffic noise is more than an annoyance. It contributes to stress, sleep difficulties, and heart problems. It may also raise your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Researchers did this study to learn whether traffic noise also increases your chances of obesity.

The Study

A total of 5,000 Swedish adults, all of whom had lived in the same place for more than 10 years, participated in the study. Each underwent a medical exam and answered questions about their lifestyle habits, health status, and reactions to noise. With that data in hand, the researchers then used statistical analysis to search for links between participants’ exposure to traffic, train and airplane noise, and their body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height used to measure body fat), waist circumference, and waist-to- hip ratio, all of which are measures of obesity.

The Results

The more traffic noise, the larger the waist measurements and the greater the hip-to- waist ratios, the researchers found. BMI, however, was not affected. Those exposed to louder road traffic noise were 18% more likely to have central obesity (fat mostly around the stomach area), a risk factor for diabetes. Central obesity was also linked with exposure to train and airplane noise. People who were exposed to a combination of road, railway, and aircraft noise were particularly affected. Their risk of central obesity was nearly doubled.


Living near lots of traffic noise could harm your metabolism. In particular, it may lead to central obesity, a major risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. The study also suggests that other negative health effects of noise exposure should be investigated. The researchers were not able to study the long-term effects of noise, so they can’t say how risks might change over time. Also, many participants had a family history of diabetes; the results may not apply to the general population.

Exposure to traffic noise and markers of obesity, by Pyko and colleagues. Occup Environ Med 2015;72:594-601 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/oemed-2014-102516

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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