Socio-economic impact

Noise pollution has a major social and territorial impact and generates a very high financial cost for towns, estimated at 0.4 % of the European Union's total GDP

Noise pollution has a heavy social and territorial impact The high noise levels along busy roads in the centre of towns is leading to an exodus to the calmer suburbs. This change is not without consequences on social mixing, with the lowest earners not being able to escape the noise. Furthermore, it has led to new commuters, causing noise problems in previously quiet neighbourhoods. Properties located in noisy areas are sold and rented at lower prices. The condition of many residences in the immediate vicinity of busy roads is considerably worse than buildings in quieter neighbourhoods. Faced with the unfavourable potential for development in neighbourhoods exposed to noise, landlords avoid investment and very often abandon renovation projects, for example. This results in a negative spiral for these areas. Noise also seems to be a factor that reinforces social and territorial inequalities.

The cost of noise for local authorities is related to both the cost of damage caused and the cost of reducing or repairing this damage.

The cost of this damage pertains to:
  • the social costs related to the health impact of noise (medical treatment of cardiovascular disease, sickness leave, insurance costs, intangible costs related to loss of well-being, loss of concentration, tiredness, and pain and suffering for the ill and their loved ones);
  • the economic repercussions of noise in terms of the devaluation of property prices, loss of attractiveness of certain sectors and loss of productivity due to the effects of noise on health.

The cost of damage caused by the noise generated by road and rail traffic in the European Union was recently estimated at €40 billion, which represents around 0.4 % of the European Union's total GDP.

Repairing damage caused by noise also requires considerable financial resources. Installing noise screens or acoustic insulation for buildings, for example, is expensive: it costs on average €600 (excl. VAT) per m2 of noise screen or €1,800 (excl. VAT) per linear metre of screen (for a 3-metre high screen) €50 (excl. VAT) per m3 of hill (based on a hill 3 metres high), and €10,000 (excl. VAT) to renovate the façade of a house (replacing exposed openings).