Health risks related to noise

About 40 percent of the population in Europe is exposed to road traffic noise levels exceeding the guideline value of 55 dBA. In Sweden more than two million people are exposed to levels exceeding this value outside their residence. Although road traffic constitutes the major source significant contributions also come from air craft and railway noise. Cardiovascular effects of long term exposure to community noise have been the focus of recent attention, but the scientific evidence is limited. Since large groups of the population are exposed to community noise even small excess risks of cardiovascular disease would be of great public health significance.


We have shown an increased risk of hypertension among subjects heavily exposed to road traffic noise in their residence and a higher incidence of hypertension among those exposed to air craft noise. Similar effects were observed in a multinational European study in which we also showed an increased saliva cortisol concentration in relation to noise exposure. Furthermore, our data indicate that exposure to noise from road traffic may increase the risk of myocardial infarction. Preliminary data also show a relation between air craft noise and markers of obesity, suggesting that noise may also induce metabolic effects.

Recently we have developed a methodology for precise individual assessment of residential exposure to noise from road, railway and aircraft noise, which combines municipal noise maps and questionnaire information on the location of the relevant apartment within a building. The methodology will be used to estimate residential noise exposure for subjects in various epidemiological materials, including members of a cohort with more than 23 000 subjects from Stockholm county. Simultaneous estimation of long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution will enable studies of interactions with noise exposure in relation to cardiovascular outcomes. Other studies focus on traffic noise exposure and metabolic outcomes, including markers of obesity.


University of Stockholm, Imperial College and University of London, National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection Netherlands, National Institute of Public Health, Oslo, etc.


  • The European Union
  • The Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research
  • The Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation
  • The Swedish Research Council Formas


Professor/senior physician

Göran Pershagen

Phone: +46-(0)8-524 874 60
Organizational unit: Environmental epidemiology