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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2017 Aug 1;72(8):1072-1079. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glx054.

Prevalence and Correlates of Olfactory Dysfunction in Old Age: A Population-Based Study.

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Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University, Sweden.
Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Psychology Division, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Otorhinolaryngology, TU Dresden, Germany.
Stockholm Gerontology Research Center, Sweden.
Gösta Ekman's Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Sweden.



Olfactory dysfunction (OD) in old age is associated with poor health outcomes. Interrelationships among different correlates of OD can offer insights into the underlying mechanisms, but to date remain understudied.


Odor identification performance and self-reported olfactory functioning were studied in 2,234 people aged 60-90 years, who were free of neurodegenerative disease and enrolled in the Swedish National Study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen (SNAC-K) study, Stockholm, Sweden. OD was defined as the inability to identify more than 10 out of 16 odors (free or cued identification) in a standardized odor identification task. OD prevalence was estimated, and associations with demographic, genetic, vascular, clinical, and behavioral factors, as well as their interactions were examined using multiple logistic regression analyses.


Overall prevalence of OD was 24.8% (CI: 23.1; 26.6). Self-reports were characterized by low sensitivity (35%), but high specificity (87%). Advancing age (OR = 15.50, CI = 9.40; 26.10 between the first and last age group), and history of coronary heart disease (OR = 1.35, 95% CI = 1.04; 1.75) were the principal factors associated with an increased probability of OD, whereas female gender (OR = 0.53, 95% CI = 0.43; 0.66) and more years of education (OR = 0.97, CI 0.94; 0.99) were linked to a lower probability. Exploratory interaction analyses indicated that prevalence of OD was particularly elevated among Apolipropotein E (APOE) ε4 allele carriers who were also obese, and that being physically active counteracted the negative impact of cerebrovascular disease on OD.


Demographic and genetic factors, but also prior and current health insults, are linked to OD in old age. Modulatory effects of behavioral factors highlight their value as possible prevention targets.


Anosmia; Hyposmia; Odor Identification; Olfaction; Perceptual decline

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