Long-term exposure to transportation noise and its association with adiposity markers and development of obesity

Environ Int. 2018 Dec;121(Pt 1):879-889. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2018.09.057. Epub 2018 Oct 19.


The contribution of different transportation noise sources to metabolic disorders such as obesity remains understudied. We evaluated the associations of long-term exposure to road, railway and aircraft noise with measures of obesity and its subphenotypes using cross-sectional and longitudinal designs. We assessed 3796 participants from the population-based Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution and Lung and Heart Diseases (SAPALDIA), who attended the visits in 2001 (SAP2) and 2010/2011 (SAP3) and who were aged 29-72 at SAP2. At SAP2 we measured body mass index (BMI, kg/m2). At SAP3 we measured BMI, waist circumference (centimetres) and Kyle body Fat Index (%) and derived overweight, central and general obesity. Longitudinally for BMI, we derived change in BMI, incidence of overweight and obesity and a 3-category outcome combining the latter two. We assigned source-specific 5-year mean noise levels before visits and during follow-up at the most exposed dwelling façade (Lden, dB), using Swiss noise models for 2001 and 2011 and participants' residential history. Models were adjusted for relevant confounders, including traffic-related air pollution. Exposure to road traffic noise was significantly associated with all adiposity subphenotypes, cross-sectionally (at SAP3) [e.g. beta (95% CI) per 10 dB, BMI: 0.39 (0.18; 0.59); waist circumference: 0.93 (0.37; 1.50)], and with increased risk of obesity, longitudinally (e.g. RR = 1.25, 95% CI: 1.04; 1.51, per 10 dB in 5-year mean). Railway noise was significantly related to increased risk of overweight. In cross-sectional analyses, we further identified a stronger association between road traffic noise and BMI among participants with cardiovascular disease and an association between railway noise and BMI among participants reporting bad sleep. Associations were independent of the other noise sources, air pollution and robust to all adjustment sets. No associations were observed for aircraft noise. Long-term exposure to transportation noise, particularly road traffic noise, may increase the risk of obesity and could constitute a pathway towards cardiometabolic and other diseases.

Keywords: Body mass index; Cardiometabolic; Noise; Obesity; Pollution; Transportation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adiposity
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Noise, Transportation / adverse effects*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity, Abdominal / epidemiology
  • Obesity, Abdominal / etiology
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / etiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers