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Noise, It Turns Out, Is Good for You

New York City

Healthy Noise

April 20, 2017 — Study finds that noisy neighborhoods improve human health.

Here’s a working definition of counterintuitive for you: a new study by NYU Langone Medical Center claims that residents in New York City neighborhoods with the most noise complaints have a lower body mass index (BMI) and lower blood pressure than people who live in neighborhoods where it’s actually possible to sleep through the night, Metro reports.

“Noise sometimes is good for you,” concludes Dustin Duncan, assistant professor of population health at NYU.

This finding would seem to fly in the face of reports from co-op and condo boards who routinely claim that noise complaints within their building are among the most vexing problems they face. And it certainly flies in the face of evidence that outdoor noise pollution contributes to such familiar New York states of mind as hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, and sleep disturbances. While outdoor noise pollution comes primarily from trains, planes and automobiles, other dependable sources include sirens, jackhammers, loud music, drunks, ice cream trucks, construction sites, dog runs, and smokers who congregate outside bars telling tall tales.

NYU 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 data show that 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 that of people living in quiet neighborhoods.

But noise might not be what’s causing all this low body mass and low blood pressure, after all. “We think it has to do with walkability,” says NYU’s Duncan. “Many neighborhoods in New York City that are noisy, such as Times Square, tend to be neighborhoods that are highly walkable.”

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