Transportation noise exposure and anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Yuliang Lan, Hannah Roberts, Mei Po Kwan, Marco Helbich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Exposure to transportation noise is hypothesized to contribute to anxiety, but consistent associations have not been established. Objective: To provide a comprehensive synthesis of the literature by examining associations between traffic-related noise (i.e., road traffic noise, railway noise, aircraft noise and mixed traffic noise) and anxiety. Methods: We systematically searched Web of Science, Scopus, Embase, PubMed, and PsycINFO for English-language observational studies published up to February 2020 reporting on the traffic noise-anxiety association. We appraised the risk of bias using an assessment tool and the quality of evidence following established guidelines. A random-effects meta-analysis was performed for pooled and separated traffic-related noise sources. Results: Of the 3575 studies identified, 11 fulfilled the inclusion criteria and 9 studies were appropriate for meta-analysis. For the pooled overall effect size between transport noise and anxiety, we found 9% higher odds of anxiety associated with a 10 dB(A) increase in day-evening-night noise level (Lden), with moderate heterogeneity (OR = 1.09, 95% CI: [0.97; 1.23], I2 = 70%). The association was more likely to be significant with more severe anxiety (OR = 1.08, 95% CI: [1.01; 1.15], I2 = 48%). Sub-group analysis revealed that the effects of different noise sources on anxiety were inconsistent and insignificant. The quality of evidence was rated as very low to low. Conclusions: Our findings support the hypothesis of an association between traffic noise and more severe anxiety. More high-quality studies are needed to confirm associations between different noise types and anxiety, as well as to better understand underlying mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110118
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Exposure
  • Mental health
  • Transportation noise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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