Road traffic noise and markers of obesity - a population-based study

Environ Res. 2015 Apr:138:144-53. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2015.01.011. Epub 2015 Feb 21.


Background: Noise has been found to be associated with endocrine changes and cardiovascular disease. Increased cortisol levels and chronic sleep problems due to noise may increase the risk of obesity.

Objectives: We investigated the relationship between road traffic noise and obesity markers. Furthermore, we explored the modifying role of noise sensitivity, noise annoyance, and sleep disturbances.

Methods: We used data from a population-based study, HUBRO (N=15,085), and its follow-up study HELMILO (N=8410) conducted in Oslo, Norway. Measurements were used to define body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), waist-hip ratio (WHR), and these binary outcomes: BMI≥30kg/m(2), WC≥102cm (men)/88cm (women), and WHR≥0.90 (men)/0.85 (women). Modelled levels of road traffic noise (Lden) were assigned to each participant's home address. Linear and logistic regression models were used to examine the associations.

Results: The results indicated no significant associations between road traffic noise and obesity markers in the total populations. However, in highly noise sensitive women (n=1106) a 10dB increase in noise level was associated with a slope (=beta) of 1.02 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.01, 1.03) for BMI, 1.01 (CI: 1.00, 1.02) for WC, and an odds ratio (OR) of 1.24 (CI: 1.01, 1.53) for WHR ≥0.85. The associations appeared weaker in highly noise sensitive men. We found no effect modification of noise annoyance or sleep disturbances. In a sub-population with bedroom facing a road, the associations increased in men (e.g. an OR of 1.25 (CI: 0.88, 1.78) for BMI ≥30kg/m(2)), but not in women. Among long-term residents the associations increased for BMI ≥30kg/m(2) (OR of 1.07 (CI: 0.93, 1.24) in men and 1.10 (CI: 0.97, 1.26) in women), but not for the other outcomes.

Conclusion: In an adult urban Scandinavian population, road traffic noise was positively associated with obesity markers among highly noise sensitive women. The associations appeared stronger among men with bedroom facing a street, representing a population with more accurately assigned exposure.

Keywords: Body mass index; Noise; Obesity; Overweight; Traffic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Noise, Transportation / adverse effects*
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Obesity / diagnosis*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity, Abdominal / epidemiology
  • Obesity, Abdominal / etiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Waist Circumference
  • Waist-Height Ratio