OBJECTIVES: This study investigated residential noise from road traffic and its relation to annoyance, disturbance of daily activities, and general health. METHODS: A large public health survey in southern Sweden in 1999-2000 supplied data (N=13 557; 54% participation rate) on the demography, annoyance, and disturbance of daily activities, and on general health problems regarding concentration, sleep, stress, and treatment for hypertension. Residential road noise exposure was assessed with a geographic information system. Associations with 24-hour equivalent (average) and maximum road noise level were investigated for all participants and for selected subgroups using the Cochran-Armitage trend test and Cox regression analysis. RESULTS: Annoyance from road traffic noise and the disturbance of daily activities increased markedly with road noise exposure. More than 25% reported at least occasional disturbance from traffic noise during relaxation and sleep in the highest exposure category for each noise measure. No overall pattern between road noise exposure and general health problems emerged. Among the participants that reported annoyance from road traffic noise (N=623), the average road noise level was associated with concentration problems (P for trend = 0.03) and with treatment for hypertension (P for trend = 0.02). Positive associations between average road noise exposure and health problems were found among females (hypertension), persons born outside Sweden (sleep), the unemployed (stress), and participants that reported financial problems (concentration problems). CONCLUSIONS: Exposure to road traffic noise at high levels was common and produced frequent disturbances of daily activities. Negative health effects from road traffic noise were observed in important subgroups. The findings are of concern for southern Sweden, as well as for other regions with similar or higher traffic intensity.
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