Long-term exposure to noise from aircraft and road traffic is associated with effects on well-being such as sleep disturbance and annoyance and with pathophysiological outcomes such as hypertension. Within the framework of the HYENA (Hypertension and Exposure to Noise near Airports) project, we investigated the effect of long-term exposure to aircraft and road noise on the usage of selected prescribed medication. Use of prescribed medication for hypertension, stomach ulcer, cancer, sleep disorders, psychiatric disorders and respiratory diseases was measured by a cross-sectional survey of 4,861 persons 45-70 years of age, who had lived at least 5 years (3 years for Greece) near any of six major European airports. Exposure was assessed using detailed models with a resolution of 1dB (5dB for UK road traffic noise) and spatial resolution of 250×250 m2 for aircraft noise and 10×10 m2 for road traffic noise. An increased risk of taking anti-hypertensive and anxiolytic medication was found for those exposed to aircraft noise at night, after adjustment for major confounders, but not for the other drugs under investigation. A 10dB increase in night-time aircraft noise exposure was associated with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.10 (95% CI, 1.02-1.20) in taking anti-hypertensives and OR of 1.29 (95% CI, 1.03-1.62) for taking anxiolytics. A higher risk of taking anxiolytics was observed for women vs men (OR = 2.52; 95%CI: 1.68-3.79) and differences were observed between countries. Results indicate excess risks of using anti-hypertensive and anxiolytic medication related to long-term exposure to aircraft noise. The association found between aircraft noise and anxiolytic use is consistent with the hypothesis suggesting that health effects of noise are stress-mediated.
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