Depression resulting from olfactory dysfunction is associated with reduced sexual appetite--a cross-sectional cohort study

J Sex Med. 2009 Jul;6(7):1924-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01266.x. Epub 2009 Apr 23.


Introduction: Anecdotal reports from patients with smell loss provided the basic motivation for the present study on sexual dysfunction among patients with olfactory dysfunction. The aim of the present study was to investigate the sexual appetite and the subject's depression in regard to olfactory function.

Methods: Eighty-six patients referred to our smell and taste clinic with olfactory dysfunction were investigated. Olfactory function was assessed by means of the "Sniffin' Sticks" test battery consisting of tests for odor threshold (T), odor discrimination (D), and odor identification (I). Their results were summed up to a composite score, the so-called "TDI score." All participants completed a questionnaire including the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and 11 questions for evaluation of the sexual appetite in regard to the time before the onset of olfactory dysfunction and since the olfactory dysfunction. The points received for the latter questions were summed up to the so called Sexual Appetite Index (SAI).

Results: Olfactory testing revealed that 38 patients were functionally anosmic, 39 patients were hyposmic, and nine patients were normosmic. The average BDI score was 11.0 +/- 8.4 points. Evaluation of the SAI questionnaire revealed a significant decrease (P = 0.003) of the score from 22.7 +/- 4.5 points from the time before to 21.4 +/- 4.9 points since the onset of olfactory loss. No significant correlation was found between olfactory function and the SAI since the onset of olfactory dysfunction. However, the BDI score correlated negatively with the SAI since the onset of olfactory dysfunction (r(85) = -0.36; P = 0.001).

Conclusion: The present study does not confirm the hypothesis that loss of olfactory function directly impacts on sexual appetite. It seems that depression caused by olfactory loss is the main cause for the self-reported decrease in sexual appetite as the onset of olfactory dysfunction.

MeSH terms

  • Arousal
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Libido*
  • Olfaction Disorders / complications*
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / epidemiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology