Study shows traffic noise can increase suicide risk



New research suggests that living in areas with a lot of noise from transportation can increase of suicide.

A study from Switzerland found that with every 10-decibel increase of average road traffic noise at home, risk for suicides rose by 4 percent. An association between railway noise and suicide was less pronounced.

“We used suicides as an indicator for mental health disorders as we do not have robust Swiss data on mental health diagnoses such as depression or anxiety,” said study co-author Benedikt Wicki, a PhD student at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

“Noise increases the mental load, contributing to the development of mental disorders or worsening of preexisting conditions,” he said in an institute news release.

Mental health disorders affect nearly 1 billion people worldwide, including about 1.4 million people in Switzerland. They are a leading cause of suicide, the authors noted.

In Switzerland, about 1,000 people die by suicide each year.

Past research has linked environmental factors like air pollution or noise to adverse health effects such as cardiovascular diseases and general well-being, but robust evidence on the effects of transportation noise on mental health disorders remains scarce, according to the study.

Biological mechanisms explaining why noise impacts mental health include sleep disturbance, increased levels of stress hormones, changes in brain function or a sense of loss of control.

“Our brain registers noise as a sign of a potential threat and activates a ‘fight-or-flight’ response. Constant transportation noise at your home can make you agitated and unable to cope with stress,” said co-author Danielle Vienneau, a Swiss TPH researcher.

The researchers analyzed data from 5.1 million teens and adults ages 15 and up in the Swiss National Cohort from 2001 to 2015.


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