Why Noise Pollution Is a Real Thing That Affects Your Health
Like memory, concentration, and mental health
Are your noisy neighbors and traffic noises from outside making you mad? Quite possibly! All the noise you experience throughout the day might be taking a toll on your health. Besides just being supremely annoying, studies show that noise pollution – yep that’s really what it’s called – is intricately linked to many mental and physical health problems.
Not only does the constant annoyance of irritating noises make people more anxious, but noise makes working more difficult. The noise itself disrupts memory, affects your ability to focus, and decreases performance (1). And if the noise is disrupting your sleep, then that might mean even more bad news!
These are many of the short term effects, but over time if you are continually frustrated and stressed because of the way noise is impacting your life, it can become even more serious. Many studies have shown that excessive noise is also associated with both anxiety and depression (2). Additionally, over time chronic stress can cause cardiovascular disease (3). And if the noise is disrupting your sleep, not getting enough sleep has been linked to poor mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety (4).
So, listen to your body. If you are noticing noise regularly, and it’s not something that is easy for you to tune out or shake off, make a change. If it is something you can address like talking to a neighbor about their constant music playing, do it. If it is something slightly outside of your control like construction outside, are there easy ways to temporarily adapt? Maybe work from a coffee shop, or a library, or your friend’s apartment that is quieter during the day. Test it out and see if wearing ear plugs is an improvement. Or, try changing the noise by playing a white noise track. If white noise isn’t doing it, you can also try pink noise or brown noise which are variations of white noise that can help block out sounds using different mixes of frequencies.
While listening to the noise can be bad, listening to your body should always be a priority. Notice if your sleep quality or productivity is changing or if you are feeling anxious because you hear something in your environment. Do what is within your power to reduce your exposure to noise, and consider more extreme reactions (like relocating, finding a new apartment, or meeting with a physician) if minor adjustments aren’t enough.
(Silent) snaps for having proof that noise really does relate to your health.
1) Makopa K, Agoub M et al. [Noise Effects on Mental Health: a review of literature.] Sante Ment Que. 2014 Fall;39(2):169-81.
2) Beutel M, Junger C et al. Noise Annoyance Is Associated with Depression and Anxiety in the General Population- The Contribution of Aircraft Noise. PLoS One. 2016; 11(5): e0155357.
3) Hammer M, Swinburn K et al. Environmental Noise Pollution in the United States: Developing an Effective Public Health Response. Environmental Health Perspectives. Volume 122 2014.