Association between aircraft, road and railway traffic noise and depression in a large case-control study based on secondary data

Environ Res. 2017 Jan;152:263-271. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.10.017. Epub 2016 Nov 3.


Background: Few studies have examined the relationship between traffic noise and depression providing inconclusive results. This large case-control study is the first to assess and directly compare depression risks by aircraft, road traffic and railway noise.

Methods: The study population included individuals aged ≥40 years that were insured by three large statutory health insurance funds and were living in the region of Frankfurt international airport. Address-specific exposure to aircraft, road and railway traffic noise in 2005 was estimated. Based on insurance claims and prescription data, 77,295 cases with a new clinical depression diagnosis between 2006 and 2010 were compared with 578,246 control subjects.

Results: For road traffic noise, a linear exposure-risk relationship was found with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.17 (95% CI=1.10-1.25) for 24-h continuous sound levels ≥70dB. For aircraft noise, the risk estimates reached a maximum OR of 1.23 (95% CI=1.19-1.28) at 50-55dB and decreased at higher exposure categories. For railway noise, risk estimates peaked at 60-65dB (OR=1.15, 95% CI=1.08-1.22). The highest OR of 1.42 (95% CI=1.33-1.52) was found for a combined exposure to noise above 50dB from all three sources.

Conclusions: This study indicates that traffic noise exposure might lead to depression. As a potential explanation for the decreasing risks at high traffic noise levels, vulnerable people might actively cope with noise (e.g. insulate or move away).

Keywords: Aircraft noise; Case-control study; Depression; Railway noise; Road traffic noise.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aircraft*
  • Airports
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Vehicles*
  • Noise, Transportation / adverse effects*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Railroads