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Live Near a Busy Road? Your Mental Health Might be at Risk

Live Near a Busy Road? Your Mental Health Might be at Risk

The downside of living near a busy road is fairly obvious – constant noise from an endless procession of cars. Aside from a lack of peace and quiet, residing near a traffic-congested road could also take a toll on your mental health.

Too Close for Comfort

A 2017 study, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that those living near busy roads may be at a greater risk of dementia. The particular report took a decade to complete from start to finish, and collected data from approximately 6.6 million Canadian residents. The news wasn’t good for those living within 50 metres of a busy road; among such adults, 10 percent of dementia deaths could be blamed on traffic-related fumes and noise.

The study was conducted by a mostly Canadian-based group of researchers. It is the first report to find a connection between dementia and close exposure to automotive traffic. The study’s lead author, Dr. Hong Chen, noted that recent population shifts have only exacerbated this problem. “Increasing population growth and urbanisation has placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden,” stated Chen.

Number Crunching

The report was very large in scope, encompassing all Ontario adults aged 20 to 85 over a period lasting over ten years (2001 to 2012). Using postcodes, the authors determined each participant’s proximity to main roads. Medical records allowed the the team to document the subjects’ long term health. Some of the report’s most notable findings are listed below:

  • A total of 243,000 Ontario adults were diagnosed with dementia over the course of the study.

  • Compared to other subjects, adults living within 50 metres of high-traffic roads were 7 percent likelier to be diagnosed with dementia.

  • People living 50 to 100 meters from busy roads likewise were more susceptible to dementia, to the tune of 4 percent. From 101 to 200 meters, this figure stood at 2 percent. No difference in dementia risk was observed past the 200 meter mark.
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