Better understanding of link between noise and health needed


The UK’s Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) is seeking to develop new evidence examining the relationship between aviation noise and people’s health.

For those who live near airports or under flightpaths, noise can be a disturbing part of their lives and can affect them in a number of different ways. However, there is limited good evidence on just how aviation noise impacts someone’s quality of life, health and wellbeing. 

ICCAN, an advisory body that provides independent, impartial advice to government, regulators and the aviation industry, has today (24 Sept) published a review of the existing evidence examining the links between aviation noise and health to try to determine which areas demand more focus.

The review, ‘Aviation noise and public health: rapid evidence assessment’, was commissioned by ICCAN from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) and brings together previous reviews by providing an update to a rapidly developing subject area.

For each health outcome, the quality of the evidence bases was assessed through a formal rating system, known as ‘GRADE’. NatCen concluded that the quality of the evidence for most health outcomes is “very low” or “low”, while only some are “moderate”.  For evidence to achieve a “moderate” or “high” quality rating, it must pass a demanding threshold. This requires a body of evidence with several high-quality studies that are either repeated over time or feature large sample sizes, both of which are costly and resource intensive.

The evidence reviewed for ICCAN was found to be “low” quality around the impact of birth, reproduction and some areas of sleep and hypertension. There was also little or no evidence for some areas of health, including dementia and other neurodegenerative outcomes, auto-immune disorders and other cancers. The quality of evidence was judged to be “moderate” for reading comprehension and stroke incidence.

Head Commissioner of ICCAN, Rob Light, said:

“This review shows that there is a real scarcity of high-quality evidence around the links between aviation noise and health. We want to help build the evidence base so that we can work towards having a more complete picture about how noise truly affects people’s health and wellbeing.

“We’ve spoken to many people who are impacted by noise on a daily basis, so understanding in more detail what effect this is having on their health is a key goal for ICCAN. Our next steps will be to build on this review and focus on those areas where more knowledge is needed.”

ICCAN will now develop a strategy for how to expand and improve the existing evidence base around health and aviation noise.

Notes to editors:

  • The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) was established by the Government in January 2019 to act as the credible and impartial voice on all matters relating to civil aviation noise and how it affects communities.
  • ICCAN published a note to accompany the review, available to view here.
  • Download the Aviation noise and public health: rapid evidence assessment here
  • ICCAN’s wider work includes producing guidance and advice for industry and regulators on the planning system, insultation schemes and airport operations.
  • ICCAN is currently researching how the current lower levels of aviation activity may be affecting people’s attitudes to aircraft noise.

For further information, contact: Rupert Basham, ICCAN Media & Engagement Lead,, 07971 110350

The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation noise ceased operating on 30 September 2021.

You can read the Government’s statement on ICCAN’s closure and Head Commissioner Rob Light’s letter to the Minister to learn more.

Any further questions about ICCAN’s work or aviation noise should be directed to the Department for Transport.