Living in noisy area raises risk of Alzheimer's, research suggests

Living in a noisy area raises risk of developing Alzheimer’s, new research suggests

  • Scientists found a sound-level rise of just 10 decibels increased the risk by 30%
  • The noise increase also led to 36% higher odds of mild cognitive impairment
  • Experts looked at risk factors including noise from roads, railways, aircraft, industry and construction work and studied 5,227 people over 65 in Chicago

People who live in louder areas have more risk of getting Alzheimer’s, according to a new study.

A sound-level rise of just 10 decibels – the difference between breathing and whispering – increased the risk by 30 per cent.

It also led to 36 per cent higher odds of mild cognitive impairment, including memory and thinking skills, said scientists.

Scientists from the University of Michigan found a sound-level rise of just 10 decibels – the difference between breathing and a whisper – increased the risk of Alzheimer’s by 30 per cent

A team from the University of Michigan studied 5,227 people over 65 in Chicago and identified risk factors for dementia including air pollution and lead poisoning plus noise from roads, railways, aircraft, industry and construction work.

Noise levels in the study varied from 51.1 to 78.2 decibels – the difference between a quiet residential area and close to a motorway.

Results published in science journal Wiley found the odds of Alzheimer’s rose by almost a third for every 10 decibel rise.

Author Professor Sara Adar said: ‘Higher levels of noise may impact the brains of older adults and make it harder for them to function without assistance.

‘There is a public health opportunity here as there are interventions that can reduce exposure.’

Dr Byron Creese of the University of Exeter Medical School said: ‘This study adds to growing evidence suggesting that the environment in which we live might impact our dementia risk.’

The research was carried out at the University of Michigan where scientists studied 5,227 people over 65 in Chicago and identified risk factors for dementia including air pollution and lead poisoning plus noise from roads, railways, aircraft, industry and construction work

The World Health Organisation has calculated at least one million healthy life-years are lost every year in western European countries because of environmental noise, with cardiovascular disease contributing to the vast majority of the deaths.

Over 125 million Europeans live with road traffic noise greater than 55 decibels, thought to be harmful to health.

The study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

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