How Noise Pollution Might Cause Increased Stress Levels

Backed-up traffic at rush hour

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Noise pollution is any intrusive noise that disrupts, distracts, or detracts from regular functioning. While we often think of noise pollution as a problem of big cities, with the competing sounds of more people in a smaller space, noise pollution can also be found in suburban neighborhoods (in the form of leaf blowers, lawnmowers, and home construction) and even individual homes and workplaces. And there is a great deal of scientific research to show that noise causes stress and can have a negative impact on your health and productivity.

Causes of Noise Pollution

While there are many different sources of noise pollution, these, in particular, have been found to have a negative impact on health.

Airplanes

Noise pollution from airplanes has a significant negative impact on the health and well-being of those who live close to airports. This can include heart disease, high blood pressure, and elevated stress hormones, as well as sleep disruption.

Traffic

One of the complaints of those who live in big cities or on busy streets is the disruption from the sounds of traffic. Interestingly, though, even low levels of traffic noise can be damaging. Traffic noise is one of the most commonly experienced sources of noise pollution, and research has tied it to depressive symptoms along with cardiovascular and respiratory-related deaths.

Workplace Noise

Most of us may think of loud assembly lines or construction sites when we think of noise pollution in the workplace, and while these examples definitely apply, regular offices are not immune. With more people packed into busy office spaces, office noise is a common complaint. Co-workers who talk, drum their fingers on the desk, or offer other distracting noises can decrease the productivity of those around them without realizing it.

Home Sounds

Many people don’t think of their homes as noisy, but if there’s a lot of activity in the home, including a constantly running TV, this overall noise level can actually be a threat to concentration and a cause of stress. In fact, children from more noisy homes do suffer ill effects that include less cognitive growth, delayed language skills, increased anxiety, and impaired resilience.

Negative Effects of Noise

Perhaps the most serious problem created by sound pollution is the impact it has on health. Because sound pollution can trigger the body’s stress response, one of its major health effects is chronic stress and the high levels of stress hormones that go with it.

That explains why noise pollution has been linked with heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Noise pollution can also impact sleep quality by preventing sleep and disrupting sleep cycles. And, perhaps most significantly, because chronic stress can lower your immunity to all disease, noise pollution is a general threat to health and wellness.

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