Olfactory impairment in an adult population: The beaver dam offspring study

Carla R. Schubert, Karen J. Cruickshanks, Mary E. Fischer, Guan Hua Huang, Barbara E.K. Klein, Ronald Klein, James S. Pankow, David M. Nondahl

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153 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of olfactory impairment and associated risk factors and the effects of olfactory impairment on dietary choices and quality of life. Odor identification was measured in 2838 participants aged 21-84 years (mean 49 years) in the Beaver Dam Offspring Study. The overall prevalence of olfactory impairment was 3.8%, increased with age (from 0.6% in those <35 years to 13.9% among those ≥65 years) and was more common in men than women. In a multivariate model age (odds ratio [OR] = 1.48, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.33, 1.64 for every 5-year increase), nasal polyps or deviated septum (OR = 2.69, 95% CI = 1.62, 4.48), ankle-brachial index < 0.9 (OR = 3.62, 95% CI = 1.45, 9.01), and smoking (women only) (OR = 2.43, 95% CI = 1.19, 4.98 ever smoked vs. never) were associated with an increased odds of olfactory impairment, whereas higher household income, ≥$50 000 versus <$50 000 per year, was associated with a decreased odds of olfactory impairment (OR = 0.48, 95% CI = 0.31, 0.73). Participants with olfactory impairment were less likely to report that food tasted as good as it used to, or that they experienced food flavors the same. There was no association between olfactory impairment and general health-related quality of life, depressive symptoms, or dietary choices. The prevalence of olfactory impairment was low in this largely middle-aged cohort, and some factors associated with olfactory impairment are potentially modifiable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-334
Number of pages10
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The project described was supported by R01AG021917 (K.J.C.) from the National Institute on Aging, National Eye Institute, and National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the official views of the National Institute on Aging or the National Institutes of Health.


  • Epidemiology
  • Olfaction
  • Quality of life
  • Smell disorders


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