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Risk of early death 'uniquely predicted' by smell loss

A declining sense of smell indicates an increased risk of early death, regardless of whether the subject has dementia or not, a new study suggests.
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A declining sense of smell indicates an increased risk of early death, regardless of whether the subject has dementia or not, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Sweden followed 1,774 participants aged 40-90 over a ten-year period.

Taking social, cognitive and medical risk factors into account, the team used the Scandinavian Odour-Identification Test, as well as sell-reporting from participants, to measure acuity levels.

During the study, 411 participants (23%) died, with the results showing each additional correctly-identified odour lowered mortality risk by 8%.

Mortality, smell link

Those individuals shown to have complete olfactory loss were found to be at a 19% higher risk of death, even after allowing for dementia conversion.

'Our results were not explained by dementia, which was previously linked to smell loss. Instead,

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A declining sense of smell indicates an increased risk of early death, regardless of whether the subject has dementia or not, a new study suggests.


Each correctly-identified odour lowered mortality risk by 8%, the study found. Picture: iStock

Researchers from Sweden followed 1,774 participants aged 40-90 over a ten-year period. 

Taking social, cognitive and medical risk factors into account, the team used the Scandinavian Odour-Identification Test, as well as sell-reporting from participants, to measure acuity levels.

During the study, 411 participants (23%) died, with the results showing each additional correctly-identified odour lowered mortality risk by 8%.

Mortality, smell link 

Those individuals shown to have complete olfactory loss were found to be at a 19% higher risk of death, even after allowing for dementia conversion.

'Our results were not explained by dementia, which was previously linked to smell loss. Instead, mortality risk was uniquely predicted by smell loss,' said senior author Jonas Olofsson.

'In our future research, we will try to pinpoint the biological processes that can explain this phenomenon.'


Olofsson JK et al (2017) Smell Loss Predicts Mortality Risk Regardless of Dementia Conversion. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. doi: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jgs.14770/abstract

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