Working in a noisy environment may be more than annoying-it may be bad for your heart. According to a study released this month by researchers at The University of British Columbia and published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, individuals working in noisy environments are at have a higher prevalence of chest pain, heart attacks, heart disease and high blood pressure due to psychological stress acquired by exposure to loud noise at the work place.
A team of researchers analyzed data on over 6, 300 employed individuals 20 years and older who participated in the U.S National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2004. As part of the U.S National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, participants underwent physical exams and answered questions about their occupational and general health. University of British Columbia researchers then divided the study participants by type of workplace: generally quiet work environments and persistently noisy workplaces. “Persistent noise” did not include loud music or talking but was defined as unwanted industrial noise such as the noise commonly found in mining and manufacturing industries. More than 20 percent of the approximately 6,300 individuals had been exposed to over 8 months of workplace noise. Even after taking into consideration the high rates of heart disease risks factors such as tobacco use and obesity among the mostly middle-aged male individuals working in a loud environment, researchers still found that workers exposed to industrial noise were about twice as likely to have serious heart problems than individuals working in quieter environments. According to study results, individuals exposed to loud noise at work were about twice as likely to have above normal diastolic blood pressure, a biomarker linked to hypertension and cardiac problems. Among those who worked in a noisy environment, men under age fifty and men who smoked were at a higher risk of coronary disease and heart attack.
Because the study relied on self-reported diagnosis data and did not consider other occupational factors associated with cardiovascular disease such as air pollution, further studies are needed before the connection between noise and cardiovascular illness is proven. Despite conclusive causal evidence of the connection, the scientific community is interested in the results of the study and eager to explore the possible connection further.