Noise and health in the urban environment

Rev Environ Health. Jan-Jun 2000;15(1-2):43-82. doi: 10.1515/reveh.2000.15.1-2.43.


Noise, including noise from transport, industry, and neighbors, is a prominent feature of the urban environment. This paper reviews the effects of environmental noise on the non-auditory aspects of health in urban settings. Exposure to transport noise disturbs sleep in the laboratory, but generally not in field studies, where adaptation occurs. Noise interferes with complex task performance, modifies social behavior, and causes annoyance. Studies of occupational noise exposure suggest an association with hypertension, whereas community studies show only weak relations between noise and cardiovascular disease. Aircraft and road-traffic noise exposure are associated with psychological symptoms and with the use of psychotropic medication, but not with the onset of clinically defined psychiatric disorders. In carefully controlled studies, noise exposure does not seem to be related to low birth weight or to congenital birth defects. In both industrial studies and community studies, noise exposure is related to increased catecholamine secretion. In children, chronic aircraft noise exposure impairs reading comprehension and long-term memory and may be associated with increased blood pressure. Noise from neighbors causes annoyance and sleep and activity interference health effects have been little studied. Further research is needed for examining coping strategies and the possible health consequences of adaptation to noise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology
  • Environmental Health*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Urban Health*