What is the prevalence of taste and smell disorders?

Updated: Jan 08, 2021
  • Author: Eric H Holbrook, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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The prevalence of disorders of taste and smell in the US general population has been estimated from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2011-2014 protocol. A total of 3519 men and women aged 40 and older were tested with a scratch-and-sniff olfactory test; smell, taste, and combined smell and taste impairment had estimated prevalences of 13.5%, 17.3%, and 2.2%, respectively. [1]

It is also known that chemosensory dysfunction deteriorates with age starting in the fifth decade of life. [2] Given the aging of the US population, therefore, it stands to reason that a significant and increasing number of individuals will experience age-related sensory loss. [3] A 2002 study showed that the prevalence of objective olfactory impairment in adults older than 53 years is 24.5% and grows more prevalent with age, reaching 62.5 % in those aged 80-97 years. Extrapolating from these values, there are currently 14 million older adults with some degree of olfactory impairment. Self-reported impairment in this study was only 9.5%, which supports the need for more accurate data based on objective measures. [4]

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