Aviation needs to better understand the links between noise and health

Posted: 25 September 2020 | | No comments yet

ICCAN highlights how there is limited quality evidence on how aviation noise impacts someone’s quality of life, health and wellbeing.

A child's wellbeing being affected by aviation noise

The UK’s Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) is seeking to develop new evidence examining the relationship between aviation noise and people’s health.

For those who live near airports or under flightpaths, noise can be a disturbing part of their lives and can affect them in a number of different ways. However, there is limited good evidence on just how aviation noise impacts someone’s health and wellbeing. 

ICCAN has published a review of the existing evidence examining the links between aviation noise and health to try to determine which areas demand more focus.

The review – ‘Aviation noise and public health: rapid evidence assessment’ – was commissioned by ICCAN from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) and brings together previous reviews by providing an update to a rapidly developing subject area.

For each health outcome, the quality of the evidence bases was assessed through a formal rating system, known as ‘GRADE’. NatCen concluded that the quality of the evidence for most health outcomes is ‘very low’ or ‘low’, while only some are ‘moderate’. For evidence to achieve a ‘moderate’ or ‘high’ quality rating, it must pass a demanding threshold. This requires a body of evidence with several high-quality studies that are either repeated over time or feature large sample sizes, both of which are costly and resource intensive.

The evidence reviewed was found to be ‘low’ quality around the impact of birth, reproduction and some areas of sleep and hypertension. There was also little or no evidence for some areas of health, including dementia and other neurodegenerative outcomes, auto-immune disorders and other cancers. The quality of evidence was judged to be ‘moderate’ for reading comprehension and stroke incidence.

Head Commissioner of ICCAN, Rob Light, said: “This review shows that there is a real scarcity of high-quality evidence around the links between aviation noise and health. We want to help build the evidence base so that we can work towards having a more complete picture about how noise truly affects people’s health and wellbeing.”

ICCAN will now develop a strategy for how to expand and improve the existing evidence base around health and aviation noise.

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