Compared to those having a good smell sense, people in the "poor" category were 46% more likely to die after 10 years and 30% after 13 years.
Further analysis revealed 22% of the overall increased risk of death among those with a poorer sense of smell was down to neurodegenerative diseases, with 6% down to weight loss. Among participants who said at the beginning of the study that their health was good, poor olfaction was linked to a 62 percent increase in the chance of dying by year 10 compared to good olfaction; it was linked to a 40 percent increase in the chance of dying by year 13.
The study also showed that people who were healthier when it started were found to be more responsible for higher risk.
Honglei Chen is an epidemiologist at Michigan State University who has focused his research on sensory deficit in older adults. Of those individuals, almost 2,300 completed a smell test at the beginning of the study. The participants, aged between 71 and 82, were then classified as having a good, moderate or poor sense of smell. "Incorporating a sense of smell screening in routine doctor visits might be a good idea at some point." explains Chen. "We need to find out what happened to these individuals", Chen said.
Declining Sense of Smell May Foretell DeathOlder adults with a poor sense of smell may die sooner than their counterparts who have keen olfactory abilities, a U.S. study suggests, The Guardian reported.
'It's always prudent to talk to a physician about your health concerns, ' he said.
"There are lots of differences between the people who could smell well and those who couldn't, apart from their sense of smell, and any differences in death rates could be due to these other differences and not to the sense of smell at all", he explained.
"The take-home message is that a loss in the sense of smell may serve as a bellwether for declining health", said Vidyulata Kamath of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, co-author of an accompanying editorial. There was no link between poor sense of smell and death from cancer or respiratory diseases.
"The sense of smell facilitates detection and identification of spoiled food and volatile environmental hazards, influences healthy grooming and personal hygiene, and affects nutritional status through its impact on appetite and feeding behavior", the study authors wrote.
'Most likely, both of these possibilities, and others, could be in play.
There's a unusual link between how well we can smell and our risk of death - but despite ongoing efforts, and a lot of overblown media coverage, researchers still can't figure it out.