Smell identification ability: changes with age

Science. 1984 Dec 21;226(4681):1441-3. doi: 10.1126/science.6505700.


Smell identification ability was measured in 1955 persons ranging in age from 5 to 99 years. On the average, women outperformed men at all ages, and nonsmokers outperformed smokers. Peak performance occurred in the third through fifth decades and declined markedly after the seventh. More than half of those 65 to 80 years old evidenced major olfactory impairment. After 80 years, more than three-quarters evidenced major impairment. Given these findings, it is not surprising that many elderly persons complain that food lacks flavor and that the elderly account for a disproportionate number of accidental gas poisoning cases each year.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Sex Factors
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Smoking