Olfactory impairment is associated with functional disability and reduced independence among older adults



      Despite its relatively high prevalence, population-based data are lacking on whether olfactory impairment influences the functional status and independence of older adults. We assessed associations between olfactory impairment with activities of daily living (ADL) measures and the likelihood of using community support services and/or reliance on non-spouse family/friend support among older adults.

      Study design

      Olfaction was measured using the San Diego Odor Identification Test (SDOIT) among 1636 participants of the Blue Mountains Eye Study (2002–4). Functional status was determined by the Older Americans Resources and Services ADL scale. Use of services and non-spouse family/friend support was self-reported.


      Use of community support services was reported by 15.2% and 5.2% of persons with and without olfactory impairment, respectively. After multivariable adjustment including for cognitive function, participants with compared to those without olfactory impairment were more likely to use community support services and non-spouse family/friend support, odds ratio, OR, 1.82 (95% confidence intervals, CI 1.16–2.86) and OR 1.62 (95% CI 1.14–2.32), respectively. ADL difficulty was reported by 16.9% (n = 57) and 4.4% (n = 45) of participants with and without olfactory loss, respectively. Olfactory impairment was associated with increased likelihood of experiencing ADL difficulty, multivariable-adjusted OR 1.98 (95% CI 1.10–3.57). Olfactory loss was significantly associated with impaired basic ADL, OR 1.57 (95% CI 1.12–2.20).


      The functional ability and independence of older adults is significantly impaired in the presence of olfactory impairment. Early diagnosis of olfactory loss by primary physicians and geriatricians could facilitate timely interventions assisting the maintenance of functional independence in later life.


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