Individuals who are frequently exposed to airplane noise are more at risk of developing a cluster of cardiometabolic conditions such as heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.

A new study has discovered that people who are regularly exposed to airplanes and helicopters flying overhead are more likely to have a high BMI – a risk factor for multiple health conditions.

Those who are often exposed to airplane noise levels at 45 dB or more are more at risk of being overweight, the study has reported.

First author Dr Matthew Bozigar said: “Prior research has shown that aircraft noise can elevate stress responses and disturb sleep, but there has been mixed evidence of any links with BMI.

“We were surprised to see a fairly robust link between aircraft noise and higher body mass index among women across the US.”

He added: “Obesity has become very stigmatised, but what is important to remember is that it is linked with poor cardiometabolic health outcomes, and that it has strong environmental drivers.

“This is disheartening, but also promising, in the sense that we could potentially enact policies to mitigate these drivers of obesity.”

Almost 75,000 adults living around 90 of the major airports in the US took part in the trial by self-reporting their BMI and other individual characteristics.

During the investigation, the team of researchers analysed airplane noise every five years from 1995 to 2010.

They compared the participant’s BMI measures to the average airplane noise they hear from their home.

Joint author Dr Junenette Peters said: “We can only hypothesise about why we saw these regional variations, but one reason may relate to the era of regional development, building characteristics and climate which may affect factors such as housing age, design, and level of insulation.

“Regional differences in temperature and humidity may influence behaviours such as window opening, so perhaps study participants living in the West were more exposed to aircraft noise due to open windows or housing type, which allowed more noise to penetrate.”

Dr Peters added: “Similarly, the stronger associations observed in arid climates, many of which are also in the Western US, may relate to the way noise travels under various atmospheric conditions.”

Dr Bozigar concluded: “We need to study the potential health impacts of environmental injustices in transportation noise exposures alongside other environmental drivers of poor health outcomes.

“There is a lot more to figure out, but this study adds evidence to a growing body of literature that noise negatively impacts health.”

Read the study in the Environment International journal.

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