Prevalence of subjective olfactory dysfunction and its risk factors: korean national health and nutrition examination survey

PLoS One. 2013 May 9;8(5):e62725. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062725. Print 2013.


Background: Population-based studies for olfactory dysfunction are lacking. The aim of this study is to evaluate the prevalence of subjective olfactory dysfunction and its risk factors in the Korean general population.

Methods: The data were obtained from the 2009 Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES), which was a cross-sectional survey of non-institutionalized population all around the country (n = 10,533). All interviewees underwent medical interviews, physical examinations, endoscopic examination and blood/urine tests. Whether sense of smell has been normal or abnormal during the last 3 months was asked. Complete olfaction data were obtained from 7,306 participants and the participants were divided into normosmic and hyposmic group. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed to identify its risk factors.

Results: The weighted prevalence of subjective olfactory dysfunction was 4.5%. Its increased prevalence was significantly associated with the increasing age for both men and women. In the multivariate analyses, low income (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.43, 95% Confidence Interval [CI] = 1.01-2.03), habitual exposure to air pollutants (adjusted OR = 2.18, CI = 1.33-3.55), a history of hepatitis B (adjusted OR = 3.10, CI = 1.25-7.68), rhinitis (adjusted OR = 1.78, CI = 1.26-2.51) and chronic sinusitis (adjusted OR = 14.55, CI = 10.06-21.05) were risk factors of olfactory dysfunction.

Conclusion: Our population-based study showed that olfactory dysfunction was quite prevalent and several risk factors were associated with impaired sense of smell. Given its prevalence, further researches for its prevention and management are required.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B / complications
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nutrition Surveys / methods*
  • Nutrition Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Olfaction Disorders / ethnology
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Prevalence
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Rhinitis / complications
  • Risk Factors
  • Sinusitis / complications
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.