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Health status as a potential effect modifier of the relation between noise annoyance and incidence of ischaemic heart disease
  1. W Babisch1,
  2. H Ising1,
  3. J E J Gallacher2
  1. 1Federal Environmental Agency, Division of Environment and Health, Berlin, Germany
  2. 2MRC Epidemiology Unit (South Wales), Llandough Hospital, Penarth, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr W Babisch
 Federal Environmental Agency, PO Box 33 00 22, 14191 Berlin, Germany;


Aims: Traffic noise is a psychosocial stressor. Epidemiological studies suggest chronic noise stress to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disorders.

Methods: In a prospective cohort study, the association between annoyance and disturbances due to road traffic noise and the incidence of ischaemic heart disease (IHD) was studied in 3950 middle aged men.

Results: Depending on the questionnaire item, non-significant odds ratios for IHD incidence ranging from 0.9 to 1.4 were found for the highly noise annoyed/disturbed subjects when compared with the less annoyed/disturbed subjects, over the six year follow up period. However, this relation was strongly modified by the prevalence of pre-existing chronic diseases. In subjects free of any chronic disease at the beginning of the follow up, significant odds ratios between 1.7 and 3.0 were seen. In the subgroup with chronic diseases no such noise effects were seen. This surprising result of no effect in the group of people with a potential risk, due to pre-existing health problems, may be because of the dilution of the true effect due to recall bias.

Conclusions: Annoyance and disturbance due to road traffic noise is associated with a higher incidence of IHD. Prevalence of disease can be an important effect modifier of the relation between noise annoyance and health outcomes.

  • traffic noise
  • annoyance
  • cardiovascular risk

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