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Stop complaining about noise: NYC’s noisiest neighborhoods are actually healthiest, study says

Noisy areas tend to be "highly walkable" and therefore encourage residents to get up and move about, according to researchers.
times square, noise complaints, new york city noise complaints, healthy neighborhoods nyc, nyc noise
Researchers are finding more noise correlates with better health among low-income residents in New York City.

Quit complaining about noise pollution in the city; new research shows residents of some of New York City’s noisiest neighborhoods are actually the healthiest.

But is it actually the noise that’s making residents healthier? Researchers aren’t so sure about that, but the study from NYU Langone Medical Center definitively shows evidence those residents in city neighborhoods with more noise complaints have (on average) a lower body mass index and lower blood pressure.

“Noise in various New York City neighborhoods were associated with reductions in BMI and reductions in blood pressure – meaning that noise sometimes is good for you,” Dustin Duncan, assistant professor of population health, said in a news release.

Noise pollution – outdoor noise caused mostly by trains, planes and automobiles – can be augmented on city streets by construction activities, music, machines and other humans. Though noise pollution has been linked to hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances and other harmful effects, the results of the NYU study said something else.

University researchers compared noise complaints filed in 2014 via New York’s 311 phone system against the body mass index and blood pressure of 102 residents in the city’s noisiest neighborhoods. The participants surveyed were all part of a larger study of low-income housing, neighborhoods and health in New York.

The data show low-income residents living within a five-block radius where more than 1,000 noise complaints were lodged had an average BMI 2.72 points lower than residents in neighborhoods without any noise complaints. The average blood pressure of survey participants was 5.34 points lower than noiseless neighborhoods, according to Science Daily.

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The noise might only be an indicator of other neighborhood factors that are actually contributing to improved health, Duncan said.

“We essentially think it’s not noise necessarily, we think it has to do with walkability,” he said. “Many neighborhoods in New York City that are noisy, such as Times Square, tend to be neighborhoods that are highly walkable.”

Things like intersections and storefronts can contribute to environmental noise, but actually also encourage people to get up and walk, he said.

“So we don’t think it’s actually noise that we’re finding this effect from, it’s really walkability,” Duncan said.

Researchers plan to study the connection between health and noise in more detail.

“The next step for this study is to examine the relationship between noise exposure, BMI and blood pressure. In addition to this, we will control for walkability and also population density to see whether these relationships vary by the levels of… walkability,” Kosuke Tamur, postdoctoral fellow, said.

 
 
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