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Transportation noise increases risk for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes

June 21, 2017

How transportation noise affects the health of people remains in many aspects unexplained. Since 2014, an interdisciplinary Swiss consortium has been studying the short- and long-term effects of transportation noise for the population in Switzerland in the frame of the SiRENE study of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Increased risk for developing cardiovascular diseases

The results published so far show that aircraft, rail and road traffic noise in Switzerland leads to adverse health effects. For cardiovascular disease mortality, the most distinct association was found for road noise. The risk of dying of a myocardial infarction increases by 4 per cent per 10 decibel increase in road noise at home. Also the risk of hypertension and heart failure increases with transportation noise. "Particularly critical are most likely noise events at night regularly disturbing sleep," says Martin Röösli, principal investigator of SiRENE and professor of environmental epidemiology at Swiss TPH and the University of Basel. "The threshold for negative health impact is lower than previously suspected."

Noise also favours Diabetes

In addition to cardiovascular diseases, transportation noise also increases the risk of developing diabetes. This is shown by an examination of 2,631 people exposed to different degrees of noise pollution. "Two mechanisms play a role," explains Nicole Probst-Hensch, Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Swiss TPH. "On the one hand, the chronic release of stress hormones influences insulin metabolism. On the other hand, sleep problems are known to negatively affect metabolism in the long term."

More effective noise protection

The results that were published in the frame of the SiRENE study will provide important information for the Swiss authorities with regard to improving noise protection and to potentially adjusting the noise limits in the Noise Abatement Ordinance (NAO). The health impact of transportation noise is substantial when considering the entire population in Switzerland, causing external costs of an estimated CHF 1.8 billion each year. For the health of individuals, however, factors such as exercise and smoking are much more important according to Röösli.

The study results were presented at the ICBEN (International Commission on Biological Effects of Noise) meeting on 20 June 2017 in Zurich. ICBEN is the world's largest congress on the health effects of noise and takes place every three years.

SiRENE - an integrated research approach

SiRENE (Short and Long Term Effects of Transportation Noise Exposure) is an interdisciplinary research project combining experiments in the sleep laboratory, epidemiological research, survey data and acoustic calculations and modelling. The study examines the following four aspects:
    1) Representative survey in the Swiss population on noise exposure, self-reported sleep disturbances and coping with noise exposure

    2) Experimental study in the sleep laboratory for noise-induced sleep disorders, daytime sleepiness and glucose balance

    3) Switzerland-wide modelling of aircraft, rail and road traffic noise

    4) Determination of noise-induced health risks using data from the Swiss National Cohort Study and the SAPALDIA Study (Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution and Lung Diseases in Adults)

SiRENE is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) within the framework of the Sinergia Program and by a consortium of researchers from Swiss TPH, Empa, n-Sphere AG, the Center for Chronobiology of the University Psychiatric Clinics Basel (UPK) and the FOEN. Swiss TPH has the study lead. Further results of the study are expected this year and next year.
About Swiss TPH

The Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) is Switzerland's leading public and global health institution. Associated with the University of Basel, the institute combines research, teaching and service provision at local, national and international level. The Swiss TPH has more than 700 employees and students working in 22 countries. It is led by Professor Jürg Utzinger.


Prof. Dr. Martin Röösli, Principal Investigator of SiRENE, Head of Environmental Exposure and Health Unit, Swiss TPH, +41 61 284 83 83, Anna Wegelin, Head of Communications, Swiss TPH, +41 76 588 30 06,

About the SiRENE study

Conference Proceeding:
  • Röösli M., Vienneau D., Foraster D., Eze I.C., , Héritier H., Schaffner E., Thiesse L., Rudzik F., Pieren R., Habermacher M., Köpfli M., Brink M., Cajochen C., Wunderli J.M., Probst-Hensch N. Short and long term effects of transportation noise exposure (SiRENE): an interdisciplinary approach. 12th ICBEN Congress on Noise as Public Health Problem, 18-22 June, 2017, Zürich Publications to date:

  • Héritier H. Vienneau D. Foraster M., Eze I.C., Schaffner E., Thiesse L., Rudzik F., Habermacher M., Köpfli M., Pieren R., Brink M., Cajochen C., Wunderli J.M., Probst-Hensch N., Röösli M. for the SNC study group. Transportation noise exposure and cardiovascular mortality: a nationwide cohort study from Switzerland. European Journal of Epidemiology, 2017. doi:10.1007/s10654-017-0234-2

  • Eze I.C., Foraster M., Schaffner E. Vienneau D. Héritier H. Rudzik F., Thiesse L., Pieren R., Imboden, M., von Eckardstein A., Schindler C., Brink M., Cajochen C., Wunderli J.M., Röösli M., Probst-Hensch N. Long-term exposure to transportation noise and air pollution in relation to incident diabetes in the SAPALDIA study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2017, 1-11, doi: 10.1093/ije/dyx020.

  • Foraster M, Eze IC, Vienneau D, Brink M, Cajochen C, Caviezel S, et al. Long-term transportation noise annoyance is associated with subsequent lower levels of physical activity. Environ Int 2016; 91: 341-9.

  • Brink M, Schreckenberg D, Vienneau D, Cajochen C, Wunderli J-M, Probst-Hensch N, et al. Effects of Scale, Question Location, Order of Response Alternatives, and Season on Self-Reported Noise Annoyance Using ICBEN Scales: A Field Experiment. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2016; 13.

  • Wunderli JM, Pieren R, Habermacher M, Vienneau D, Cajochen C, Probst-Hensch N, et al. Intermittency ratio: A metric reflecting short-term temporal variations of transportation noise exposure. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 2015: 1-11.

  • Karipidis I, Vienneau D, Habermacher M, Köpfli M, Brink M, Probst-Hensch N, et al. Reconstruction of historical noise exposure data for environmental epidemiology in Switzerland within the SiRENE project. Noise Mapping. Volume 1, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 2084-879X, DOI: 10.2478/noise-2014-0002, July 2014 2014.


Diabetes - SAPALDIA Study: Prof. Dr. Nicole Probst-Hensch, Head of the Department Epidemiology and Public Health, Swiss TPH, Principal Investigator of SAPALDIA,

Exposure Modelling: Dr. Jean-Marc Wunderli (Empa),

Population surveys: PD Dr. Mark Brink (FOEN),

Sleep laboratory: Prof. Dr. Christian Cajochen, Head, Centre for Chronobiology, Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel,

Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

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