Traffic noise is one of the four environmental factors with the greatest impact on people's health. Traffic is the main cause of noise pollution in Spain, producing over 80% of noise pollution in big cities. This is demonstrated by data obtained by the Noise Study promoted by the Health and Environment Observatory of the DKV Healthy Life Institute in collaboration with GAES and developed by ECODES. Based on the analysis, the study concludes that the impact caused by traffic noise could be reduced from 33% to 6%, by simply lowering the speed of traffic from 50 to 30 km/h in urban areas.
A problem throughout Spain
The report produced by the Health and Environment Observatory of the DKV Healthy Life Institute analyses the impact of traffic noise at a national level and in different Spanish regions. Broadly speaking, one out of four Spaniards is exposed to noise levels above the upper thresholds established by the European Union: 55 dB during the day and 50 dB at night. Likewise, almost a third of Spaniards claim that they are disturbed by the noise generated outside their homes, and 76% state the noise pollution has a significant impact on their life. Similarly, noise pollution is a very common and annoying issue for 30% of people.
In this regard, it is important to highlight the connection between traffic noise and hospital admissions of adults and children: environmental noise caused by traffic increases the chance of being admitted to hospital for respiratory reasons, as well as increased mortality due to cardiovascular and respiratory reasons, and also due to diabetes in people over the age of 65 years, particularly for people living in the centres of large cities.
Barcelona and Madrid among the loudest cities in the world
Barcelona has the highest level of noise pollution of any city in Spain and occupies the seventh position worldwide. Meanwhile, Madrid is 16th in the world and the second Spanish city with the greatest level of noise pollution. However, Madrid has the highest percentage of residents who believe that their city is noisy (74%), followed by Barcelona (65%), Seville (57%) and Valencia (56%).
In addition, when choosing a home or place of residence, most Spaniards take into consideration whether the surroundings are noisy. However, 53% do not view this as an important factor. Valladolid is the province least concerned with noise when choosing a home, whilst Bilbao places the most importance on this factor, being a priority in 36% of cases.
On the other hand, 26% of Spaniards consider their work environment to be noisy, especially in Seville (33%), Madrid (31%) and Bilbao (29%). It is important to point out that 71% of citizens believe that noise greatly affects their concentration. Seville, Zaragoza and Valencia are the provinces with the highest percentages of residents who find it difficult to concentrate in noisy environments. In this regard, it appears that people who work in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona are more used to noise pollution and have less difficulty concentrating in a noisy environment.
A phenomenon that affects all of Europe
This issue affects more than 70 million people every day in Europe, who lose 1.6 million years of healthy life each year due to environmental noise. In addition, this causes at least 10,000 cases of early deaths every year in Europe.
Around 50 million European citizens living in urban areas suffer from excessively high traffic noise levels at night. Furthermore, nighttime traffic noise has a highly damaging effect on the health of 20 million people, according to data from the European Commission.
DKV-GAES Noise and Health Observatory
The Noise Study is a publication developed by the DKV-GAES Noise and Health Observatory in collaboration with ECODES. The Observatory, part of the DKV Healthy Living Institute, is an organisation created in 2012 with the aim of disseminating and raising awareness of the high levels of noise in our environment and how they can affect our health.
The partnership between DKV and GAES has led to four reports on this specific environmental problem: “Noise and Health” (2012), “Noise and Health in Barcelona” (2013), “III DKV-GAES Noise and Health Report” (2015), and “Noise and Health in Madrid. 2017 Edition”, which compiles and updates the main studies and existing data on noise levels in the city of Madrid.
ECODES is a non-profit organisation whose activities are aimed at helping to implement a sustainable development model, by producing alternatives that are compatible with economic development and environmental protection.
GAES has been dedicated to providing people with hearing difficulties with hearing solutions since it was founded in Barcelona in 1949. As well as producing its own brand Microson, it is a distributor of products from leading global companies such as Starkey and Siemens. Its hearing centres make use of advanced technologies and have technical specialists on hand to detect any potential hearing problems and provide the most suitable hearing solutions in each case. GAES currently has a network of around 600 hearing centres, more than 500 of which are in Spain, with others in Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Turkey, and Ecuador.
DKV understands how important it is for companies to go beyond making financial profits, and to assume their ethical, social and environmental responsibility through actions aimed at interest groups. As an insurance company, DKV endeavours to create a healthier world in the fields of healthcare, the environment, childhood obesity, the labour integration of people with disabilities, and active ageing.
DKV is present throughout Spain with an extensive network of health insurance offices (https://eng.dkvseguros.com/seguros-medicos-particulares/) and consultancies, where close to 2,000 employees serve nearly 2 million customers.