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Chem Senses. 2011 Jan;36(1):63-7. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjq098. Epub 2010 Oct 5.

Odor identification and mortality in old age.

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Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, 600 South Paulina Avenue, Suite 1038, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


The association of olfactory dysfunction with mortality was examined in 1162 older persons without dementia or Parkinson's disease. They completed a standard 12-item test of odor identification and then were followed for a mean of 4.2 years (standard deviation [SD] = 2.6, range: 0-9) during which 321 individuals died (27.6%). The relation of olfactory score to risk of death was assessed in a series of proportional hazards models adjusted for age, sex, education, and other covariates. Olfactory scores ranged from 0 to 12 correct (mean = 9.0, SD = 2.2). In an initial analysis, risk of death decreased by about 6% for each additional odor correctly identified (hazard ratio = 0.94; 95% confidence interval: 0.90, 0.98). Thus, mortality risk was about 36% higher with a low score (6, 10th percentile) compared with a high score (11, 90th percentile). The association persisted in subsequent analyses that controlled for naming ability, disability, cerebrovascular disease, characteristic patterns of leisure activity, depressive symptoms, and apolipoprotein E genotype. The results indicate that difficulty identifying familiar odors in old age is associated with increased risk of death.

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