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Sci Rep. 2017 Mar 22;7:45118. doi: 10.1038/srep45118.

Olfactory function and the social lives of older adults: a matter of sex.

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Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands.
Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Dept. of Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA.
Depts. of Psychology and Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
Dept. of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Dept. of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Social factors play a critical role in a panoply of health processes, including, as recently demonstrated, olfaction. Here, we investigated sex-dependent differences in the relationship between social lives and ability to identify odors in a large sample of nationally representative older US adults (n = 3005, National Social Life and Aging Project (NSHAP)). Social life was measured by the number of friends and close relatives as well as frequency of socializing. We here confirm the association between social lives and olfactory function and extend the notion by showing specifically that olfactory identification ability is modulated by sex in older adults. The connection between olfactory performance and social lives could reflect social modulation of aging as has been reported for health in general. Future studies are necessary to elucidate the precise mechanisms underlying this association and sex difference.

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