Airplane noise linked to next day heart health hospitalisations

A plane flies over a sign
A plane flies over a sign

New research has investigated the potential impact of living near Heathrow airport on cardiovascular hospitalisations and deaths.

The sound of airplanes flying overhead late at night is linked to a slight increase in hospital admissions for heart-related problems the following day, a study from Imperial College London suggests.

Researchers from Imperial and the University of Leicester combined hospital admissions and mortality data with environmental modelling to assess short-term associations between aircraft noise and cardiovascular events the following day in a population of 6.3 million residing near Heathrow Airport between 2014-2018.

Risks of airplane noise

"Airplane noise, particularly late at night and in the early hours, potentially increases risk in cardiovascular hospitalisations." Professor Marta Blangiardo School of Public Health

They found that a 10 decibel increase in noise during the previous evening and previous early morning was associated with a small increase in risk for all cardiovascular disease admissions. This risk was most prominent in men over the age of 65, and for people of Black ethnicity.

There was no evidence of an association between aircraft noise and deaths due to cardiovascular disease.

Sleep disturbance

Late night and early hour aircraft sound may disturb sleep in locals, which could temporarily increase blood pressure and activate the sympathetic nervous system - responsible for adrenaline and the ’fight or flight’ response - potentially leading to increased risk of cardiovascular issues.

Longer term studies have found much larger risks associated with airplane noise.

Professor Marta Blangiardo , co-author of the report from the School of Public Health , said: "Heart disease costs NHS England over £7 billion a year , but studies assessing the short-term risks of airport noise on heart health are few and far between."

"Our research suggests that aircraft noise, particularly late at night and in the early hours of the morning, potentially increases risk in cardiovascular hospitalisations."

"Next, research should look into the efficacy of measures that could be offered to local communities of busy airports, including runway rotation and noise insulation."

"This should see our study findings translated into action."

Aircraft noise and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality near Heathrow Airport: A case-crossover study was published in ELSEVIER Environment International