What are your ears hearing right now?
Is it the bustling sounds of a busy office? Or maybe the commotion of vehicles in heavy traffic? Perhaps it’s the crying of babies in prams. Whatever it is, one thing is certain — it makes people feel awful. After all, noise pollution is still pollution. And even as other forms of pollution decrease, noise pollution is becoming more prevalent1.
In fact, you’ve probably been guilty of noise pollution too — whether it’s blaring music from your phone or talking just a little too loudly.
Noise is actually a common drawback of urban life. And the world is becoming more and more urbanised each day, with three million people a week moving to urban environments1. In the UK alone, cities take up 8% of the land whilst accounting for 54% of the population, 60% of jobs and 62% of all exports2.
As cities get larger and urban populations grow, the problem of noise pollution will only get worse. This stems from people and buildings being packed closer together, along with an increase in transit and industrial activity.
The thing is, noise pollution poses a threat to both our health as well as the attractiveness of a city.
Notable health issues that can be caused by noise pollution include stress, weakened mental acuity, and elevated blood pressure and heart rates. These issues could even lead to more serious problems. In fact, noise pollution has been linked to other dire health complications such as dementia, stroke, and heart attack3.
Therefore, a noisy environment may deter people from relocating to such a place4, and even encourage people already living there to move to somewhere less taxing on their body and mind. London, in particular, is a city that has suffered diminished appeal due to noise pollution.
Noise pollution in megacities
Whilst London enjoys a reputation as the world’s number one preferred relocation destination for professionals and the globe’s most popular city for those considering working abroad5, research published in January 2017 also revealed that constant noise is one of the main reasons given by Londoners for moving out of the city, with 41% citing it as a reason for leaving6.
The National Noise Attitude Survey showed that between 2000 and 2012, noise increased from being the ninth environmental priority to the fourth, with 48% of the public feeling that their home life was spoilt by noise.
Sources of noise pollution
According to an analysis, conducted over the period April 2007 to March 2008, by the Westminster City Council in central London, the top five reasons for noise complaints were as follows:
- Residential noise (i.e. neighbours)
- Noise from commercial premises
- Building site
- Noise in the street
- Burglar alarm
What’s more, these noise complaints generally peaked between 8pm and midnight, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. This means that noise pollution has a large impact on people who are likely at home and trying to sleep in the evenings or trying to relax during the weekends.
The truth is, London has the highest rate of noise complaints than any other region in England by a considerable margin, at 16.8 per thousand population (all other English regions have a rate between 4.2 and 6.7).