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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 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
Pages (from-to)325-334
Number of pages10
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number4
StatePublished - 23 Apr 2012


  • Epidemiology
  • Olfaction
  • Quality of life
  • Smell disorders


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