A Nose for Living Longer

Failing to be able to detect odors may raise a person’s risk of death.


The ability to accurately identify smells may impact how long you may life. Davangere Devanand, from Columbia University (New York, USA), and colleaguesenrolled 1,169 men and women, ages 65 and older, in a study in which each was asked to scratch and sniffindividuals odorant strips and identify the smell from a four-item multiple-choice list.  Those with a reduced ability to identify certain odors were at an increased risk of dying during an average follow-up of 4 years. The mortality rate was 45% in participants with the lowest scores on a 40-item smell test, compared with 18% of participants with the highest scores. The study authors report that: “Impaired odor identification, particularly in the anosmic range, is associated with increased mortality in older adults even after controlling for dementia and medical comorbidity.”


D. P. Devanand, Seonjoo Lee, Jennifer Manly, Howard Andrews, Nicole Schupf, Arjun Masurkar, et al.  “Olfactory identification deficits and increased mortality in the community,”  Annals of Neurology, June 2015, DOI: 10.1002/ana.24447.