Longitudinal effects of aircraft noise exposure on children’s health and cognition [Science Direct]
- First longitudinal study of noise effects on children’s health and cognition.
- 6-Year follow-up of children who attended primary schools around Heathrow airport.
- Aircraft noise at primary school increases noise annoyance at secondary school.
- Weaker longitudinal association between aircraft noise and poorer reading.
- No longitudinal association between aircraft noise and psychological health.
Cross-sectional evidence that environmental noise exposure at school shows negative associations with children’s cognition and health has increased, yet longitudinal evidence is lacking.
This study examined longitudinal associations of aircraft noise exposure at primary school on children’s reading comprehension, noise annoyance, and psychological health at secondary school. This six-year follow-up of 461 children aged 15–16 years, who attended primary and secondary schools around London Heathrow airport, used annual average aircraft noise exposure at the schools from noise contour maps.
Multilevel regression modelling showed that aircraft noise exposure at primary school was associated with a significant increase in noise annoyance and with a non-significant decrease in reading comprehension at follow-up. Aircraft noise at primary school was not associated with psychological health at follow-up.
This is the first longitudinal study of its type, suggesting that aircraft noise exposure at school might impair reading comprehension, as well as increase noise annoyance in children.
Exposure to transport noise in the environment is increasingly being seen as an important public health issue. Within Europe it has been estimated that 20% of the population (approximately 80 million people) are exposed to noise levels which scientists and health experts consider unacceptable (European Commission, 1996). The World Health Organisation recently estimated that traffic noise could conservatively account for over 1 million health years of life lost annually in the European Union and Western European countries (WHO, 2011). Evidence for traffic noise effects on human health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease (Jarup et al., 2008; van Kempen & Babisch, 2012), sleep (Basner, Griefahn, & Berg, 2010; Elmenhorst et al., 2012) and noise annoyance (Janssen, Vos, van Kempen, Breugelmans, & Miedema, 2011) has strengthened in recent years.
There is also growing evidence that environmental noise exposure such as aircraft or road traffic noise shows negative associations with children’s cognition and health. To date, over 20 studies have shown a negative effect of environmental noise exposure on children’s learning outcomes and cognitive performance (Evans & Hygge, 2007).
Studies have demonstrated that children with chronic aircraft, road traffic or rail noise exposure at school have poorer reading ability, memory, and academic performance on nationally standardised tests than children who are not exposed to noise at school. Studies have also demonstrated associations of environmental noise exposure on children’s health and quality of life outcomes including noise annoyance and blood pressure.
Longitudinal effects of aircraft noise exposure on children’s health and cognition: A six-year follow-up of the UK RANCH cohort. Journal of Environmental Psychology – Volume 35, September 2013
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