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Smell ya later: study links poor sense of smell with early death

A new study has found that a poor sense of smell in older people could be an indicator of premature death.

The study of 2289 adults aged between 71 and 82 found that those with poor sense of smell had a 46 per cent higher chance of dying.

The participants were given a baseline smell test of 12 common smells or odours and were followed up at the three, five, 10 and 13-year marks.

At the 10-year mark, those with poor smell were at 46 per cent higher risk for death and 30 per cent higher after 13 years.

Surprisingly, those who reported better overall health at the baseline tests made up the bulk of those at higher risk.

The research was conducted by Michigan State University in the US and published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Co-author Dr Honglei Chen, of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, said: “Poor sense of smell becomes more common as people age, and there’s a link to a higher risk for death.

“Our study is the first to look at the potential reasons why it predicts a higher mortality.”

Still, Chen said that the reasons for the increased risk is, as yet, unknown, but he plans to pursue this further. He added that the results do indicate that smell tests could be useful indicators of health in the future.

“It tells us that in older adults, impaired sense of smell has broader implications of health beyond what we have already known,” Chen said. “Incorporating a sense of smell screening in routine doctor visits might be a good idea at some point.”

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