Study Links Occupational Noise Exposure to Hypertension

Noise is a highly prevalent environmental exposure in the US, in European countries, and in Asian countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified noise pollution as the second leading environmental cause of health problems, after particulate matter air pollution. Living and working conditions affect noise exposure by its intensity, the complexity of sounds, and frequency, with transport and industrial activities the leading sources of exposure. Increasingly, evidence is revealing a negative effect of noise exposure on human health, including both auditory and nonauditory health endpoints such as annoyance, sleep disturbance, reading impairment in children, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including arteriosclerosis, ischemic heart disease, and stroke. The WHO has estimated that the number of healthy life years lost annually because of noise exposure is 61,000 for CVD, 45,000 for cognitive impairment of children, 903,000 for sleep disturbance, 22,000 for tinnitus, and 654,000 for annoyance in western European countries.

According to the WHO, ischemic heart disease, stroke, and hypertensive heart diseases were the leading causes of death in 2015. In this context, the role of noise exposure as contributor to CVD becomes a crucial concern of public health. Indeed, environmental noise exposure has been implicated in increased diagnosis of hypertension, hospital admission, and premature mortality. However, while a number of studies have reported hypertension or blood pressure as being positively associated with noise exposure, others have reported negative associations. These contrasting findings may be because of the inherent complexity in studying the effect of noise exposure and underlines the need for further research into its effects upon human health. Furthermore, a need exists to better understand how the effect of noise pollution exposure may be mediated by other factors, such as lifestyle and genetics.

This study investigated the effect of chronic occupational noise exposure upon the development of hypertension in young adults. The study used 124,286 individuals (18–40 years old) from within the Project Environmental and Lifestyle Factors in Metabolic Health Throughout Life-Course Trajectories to estimate risk of hypertension by stage (elevated blood pressure, Stage 1, and Stage 2) with noise exposure and examined the interaction of noise/body mass index (BMI), noise/gender, and noise/residence on hypertension risk in separate models. Results reveal that noise exposure is associated with increased blood pressure in elevated blood pressure, Stage 1 and Stage 2, and displayed interaction with BMI, gender, and residence.

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