Saliva cortisol and exposure to aircraft noise in six European countries

Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Nov;117(11):1713-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0900933. Epub 2009 Jul 20.


Background: Several studies show an association between exposure to aircraft or road traffic noise and cardiovascular effects, which may be mediated by a noise-induced release of stress hormones.

Objective: Our objective was to assess saliva cortisol concentration in relation to exposure to aircraft noise.

Method: A multicenter cross-sectional study, HYENA (Hypertension and Exposure to Noise near Airports), comprising 4,861 persons was carried out in six European countries. In a subgroup of 439 study participants, selected to enhance the contrast in exposure to aircraft noise, saliva cortisol was assessed three times (morning, lunch, and evening) during 1 day.

Results: We observed an elevation of 6.07 nmol/L [95% confidence interval (CI), 2.32-9.81 nmol/L] in morning saliva cortisol level in women exposed to aircraft noise at an average 24-hr sound level (L(Aeq,24h)) > 60 dB, compared with women exposed to L(Aeq,24h) < or = 50 dB, corresponding to an increase of 34%. Employment status appeared to modify the response. We found no association between noise exposure and saliva cortisol levels in men.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that exposure to aircraft noise increases morning saliva cortisol levels in women, which could be of relevance for noise-related cardiovascular effects.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; gender differences.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aircraft
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Noise, Transportation / adverse effects*
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors


  • Hydrocortisone