Link between road traffic noise and quality of life for older people, notes ESRI research

Experts focus on whether wellbeing of older people exposed to more road traffic noise worse than those living in quieter areas

There is evidence of a “negative association” between exposure to road traffic noise and quality of life among older people, researchers from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) have found.

The ESRI has said as the world’s “urban population” is set to double from 3.1 billion in 2014 to 6.4 billion in 2050, understanding the nature of the relationship between road traffic noise and public health outcomes is “important” for those involved in urban planning and environmental regulation.

Fresh research, Road traffic noise, quality of life and mental health among older adults, by Ciarán Mac Domhnaill, Owen Douglas, Seán Lyons, Enda Murphy and Anne Nolan was published on Tuesday.

It focused on whether older adults whose residences were exposed to more road traffic noise had lower mental health and wellbeing than those living in less noisy areas.


“While there was no statistically significant relationship between road traffic noise and depression, anxiety, worry or stress, we found evidence of a negative association with quality of life,” said the researchers.

A larger sample, encompassing urban areas outside Dublin and Cork, is required in order to fully explore this relationship in the older population, they added.

Quality of life

Researchers estimated exposure to noise originating from road traffic during 2013 for residences in Dublin and Cork for 1,706 individuals aged 54 and over from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda).

Quality of life in Tilda was measured by asking individuals to answer 12 questions that capture how they feel about various aspects of their lives.

The answers to each question were summed together to form a composite score, with higher values indicating higher quality of life.

“To put the size of the effect of noise on quality of life in context, the size of this effect was larger than the effect of moving from having completed only primary or no education to having completed secondary education,” the researchers said.

“However, we found no association between road traffic noise and the other measures of mental health: depression, anxiety, stress or worry.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times