The Prevalence of Anosmia and Associated Factors Among U.S. Black and White Older Adults

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2017 Aug 1;72(8):1080-1086. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glx081.


Background: Olfactory impairment is common among older adults; however, data are largely limited to whites.

Methods: We conducted pooled analyses of two community-based studies: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study (ARIC, 1,398 blacks and 4,665 whites), and the Health, Aging, and Body Composition study (Health ABC, 958 blacks and 1,536 whites) to determine the prevalence of anosmia and associated factors for black and white older adults in the United States.

Results: The overall prevalence of anosmia was 22.3% among blacks and 10.4% among whites. Blacks had a markedly higher odds of anosmia compared to whites in age and sex adjusted analyses (odds ratio [OR] 2.96, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.59-3.38). In both blacks and whites, higher anosmia prevalence was associated with older age and male sex. The highest prevalence was found in black men 85 years or older (58.3%), and the lowest in white women aged 65-69 years (2.4%). Higher education level, lower cognitive score, ApoE ε4, daytime sleepiness, poorer general health status, lower body mass index, and Parkinson disease were associated with higher prevalence of anosmia in one or both races. However, the racial difference in anosmia remained statistically significant after adjusting for these factors (fully adjusted OR = 1.76, 95%CI: 1.50-2.07). Results were comparable between the two cohorts.

Discussion: Anosmia is common in older adults, particularly among blacks. Further studies are needed to identify risk factors for anosmia and to investigate racial disparities in this sensory deficit.

Keywords: Anosmia; Prevalence; Racial disparity.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging* / physiology
  • Aging* / psychology
  • Apolipoprotein E4 / analysis*
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Blacks / statistics & numerical data
  • Cognition*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Olfaction Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Olfaction Disorders* / ethnology
  • Olfaction Disorders* / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data


  • Apolipoprotein E4