Objectives/hypothesis: Patients with olfactory dysfunction appear repeatedly in ear, nose, and throat practices, but the prevalence of such problems in the general adult population is not known. Therefore, the objectives were to investigate the prevalence of olfactory dysfunction in an adult Swedish population and to relate dysfunction to age, gender, diabetes mellitus, nasal polyps, and smoking habits.
Study design: Cross-sectional, population-based epidemiological study.
Methods: A random sample of 1900 adult inhabitants, who were stratified for age and gender, was drawn from the municipal population register of Skövde, Sweden. Subjects were called to clinical visits that included questions about olfaction, diabetes, and smoking habits. Examination was performed with a smell identification test and nasal endoscopy.
Results: In all, 1387 volunteers (73% of the sample) were investigated. The overall prevalence of olfactory dysfunction was 19.1%, composed of 13.3% with hyposmia and 5.8% with anosmia. A logistic regression analysis showed a significant relationship between impaired olfaction and aging, male gender, and nasal polyps, but not diabetes or smoking. In an analysis of a group composed entirely of individuals with anosmia, diabetes mellitus and nasal polyps were found to be risk factors, and gender and smoking were not.
Conclusion: The sample size of the population-based study was adequate, with a good fit to the entire population, which suggests that it was representative for the Swedish population. Prevalence data for various types of olfactory dysfunction could be given with reasonable precision, and suggested risk factors analyzed. The lack of a statistically significant relationship between olfactory dysfunction and smoking may be controversial.