Health Effects of Noise and Air Pollution
: Empirical Investigations

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The assessment of the relationship between pollution emissions and health has direct economic implications. Health status is an important factor influencing worker productivity, and hence economic growth, as well as impacting on individual well- being. We implement various strategies to disentangle the relationship between short-term noise and air pollution exposure and health. In two studies we look at airports, which are sources of both environmental stressors. In the first study we use an administrative dataset on all hospitalisations in England, the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES). We compare hospital visits between people living within certain noise levels near airports to people living further away. In the second study we focus on prescription drugs in regions around London Heathrow airport. This study exploits a trial performed over five months at Heathrow airport that redirected approaching aircraft to reduce early morning noise in designated areas. A third study implements an instrumental variable approach, where the endogenous variable of daily levels of air pollution is instrumented with daily indicators of wind direction. In this case, the health outcomes investigated are again HES visits.

Informed by the medical literature, this thesis focuses on three different health cat- egories: nervous, circulatory and respiratory. The results of the first study show statically significant increases in visits for nervous and respiratory outcomes for people living near airports. Furthermore, we observe a substitution of admissions from elective to emergency hospitalisations. The study that exploits the Heathrow airport trial shows that prescribed medication usage is significantly correlated with air traffic around that airport. Compared to the control regions, we observe a significant decrease in prescribed drugs for respiratory and nervous system conditions in the areas affected by a reduction in air traffic. The third study on daily variation of air pollution, finds a statistically significant increase in nervous emergency hospital visits. Across the three different approaches, nervous conditions are the mostly affected. These conditions include sleep disturbance, attention deficits and other stress-related diseases.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAugustin De Coulon (Supervisor) & Mary O'Mahony (Supervisor)

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