Residential Road Traffic Noise and High Depressive Symptoms after Five Years of Follow-up: Results from the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study

Environ Health Perspect. 2016 May;124(5):578-85. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1409400. Epub 2015 Nov 25.


Background: Traffic noise affects a large number of people, particularly in urbanized areas. Noise causes stress and annoyance, but less is known about the relationship between noise and depression.

Objective: We investigated the association of residential road traffic noise with depressive symptoms using 5-year follow-up data from a German population-based study.

Methods: We analyzed data from 3,300 participants in the Heinz Nixdorf Recall study who were between 45 and 75 years old and were without depressive symptoms at baseline (2000-2003). Depressive symptoms were defined based on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (CES-D) 15-item questionnaire (total score ≥ 17) and antidepressant medication intake. Road traffic noise was modeled according to European Parliament/Council Directive 2002/49/EC. High noise exposure was defined as annual mean 24-hr noise levels > 55 A-weighted decibels [dB(A)]. Poisson regression with robust variance was used to estimate relative risks (RRs) a) adjusting for the potential confounders age, sex, socioeconomic status (SES), neighborhood-level SES, and traffic proximity; b) additionally adjusting for body mass index and smoking; and c) additionally adjusting for the potential confounders/intermediates comorbidities and insomnia.

Results: Overall, 35.7% of the participants were exposed to high residential road traffic noise levels. At follow-up (mean = 5.1 years after baseline), 302 participants were classified as having high depressive symptoms, corresponding to an adjusted RR of 1.29 (95% CI: 1.03, 1.62; Model 1) for exposure to > 55 versus ≤ 55 dB(A). Adjustment for potential confounders/intermediates did not substantially alter the results. Associations were stronger among those who reported insomnia at baseline (RR = 1.62; 95% CI: 1.10, 2.59 vs. RR = 1.21; 95% CI: 0.94, 1.57) and appeared to be limited to those with ≤ 13 years of education (RR = 1.43; 95% CI: 1.10, 1.85 vs. 0.92; 95% CI: 0.56, 1.53 for > 13 years).

Conclusion: Our results suggest that exposure to residential road traffic noise increases the risk of depressive symptoms.

Citation: Orban E, McDonald K, Sutcliffe R, Hoffmann B, Fuks KB, Dragano N, Viehmann A, Erbel R, Jöckel KH, Pundt N, Moebus S. 2016. Residential road traffic noise and high depressive symptoms after five years of follow-up: results from the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study. Environ Health Perspect 124:578-585;

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Noise, Transportation / statistics & numerical data*