Investigation on the Loss of Taste and Smell and Consequent Psychological Effects: A Cross-Sectional Study on Healthcare Workers Who Contracted the COVID-19 Infection

Front Public Health. 2021 May 28:9:666442. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.666442. eCollection 2021.


The aim of this study was to investigate the correlation between psychological distress and taste and sense of smell dysfunctions on healthcare workers (HCW) who contracted the COVID-19 infection in the midst of the disease outbreak. Reports of sudden loss of taste and smell which persist even after recovery from COVID-19 infection are increasingly recognized as critical symptoms for COVID-19 infections. Therefore, we conducted a cross-sectional study on COVID-19 HCW (N = 104) who adhered to respond to a phone semistructured interview addressing the virus symptoms and associated psychological distress. Data were collected from June to September 2020. Findings confirm the association between experienced taste/olfactory loss and emotional distress and suggest that dysfunctions of taste and smell correlate positively with anxiety and depression. Furthermore, their psychological impact tends to persist even after the recovery from the disease, suggesting the need for appropriate psychological interventions to prevent people from developing more serious or long-lasting psychological disorders and, as far as HCW, to reduce the risk of work-related distress.

Keywords: COVID-19; healthcare workers; psychological distress; smell loss; taste disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Ageusia*
  • COVID-19*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Smell
  • Taste