Traffic Noise and Mental Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Aug 25;17(17):6175. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17176175.


Recent evidence suggests that traffic noise may negatively impact mental health. However, existing systematic reviews provide an incomplete overview of the effects of all traffic noise sources on mental health. We conducted a systematic literature search and summarized the evidence for road, railway, or aircraft noise-related risks of depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and dementia among adults. We included 31 studies (26 on depression and/or anxiety disorders, 5 on dementia). The meta-analysis of five aircraft noise studies found that depression risk increased significantly by 12% per 10 dB LDEN (Effect Size = 1.12, 95% CI 1.02-1.23). The meta-analyses of road (11 studies) and railway traffic noise (3 studies) indicated 2-3% (not statistically significant) increases in depression risk per 10 dB LDEN. Results for road traffic noise related anxiety were similar. We did not find enough studies to meta-analyze anxiety and railway or aircraft noise, and dementia/ cognitive impairment and any traffic noise. In conclusion, aircraft noise exposure increases the risk for depression. Otherwise, we did not detect statistically significant risk increases due to road and railway traffic noise or for anxiety. More research on the association of cognitive disorders and traffic noise is required. Public policies to reduce environmental traffic noise might not only increase wellness (by reducing noise-induced annoyance), but might contribute to the prevention of depression and anxiety disorders.

Keywords: aircraft noise; anxiety; cognition disorders; depression; disruptive behavior disorders; noise; noise pollution; psychology; railway noise; road traffic noise; traffic noise; transportation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology
  • Dementia / etiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Noise, Transportation / adverse effects*