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The Sense of Smell in U.S. Adults Over Age 40: Infographic Text


The sense of smell is important.

Smell interacts with taste to help you enjoy the flavor of food.

Smell helps you avoid spoiled food and toxic chemicals.

Smell alerts you to danger, such as fire and gas leaks.

Not everyone has a good sense of smell.

Smell tests show that about 1 out of 8 people has some smell loss.

About 1 out of 30 people has very little or no sense of smell.

About 1 out of 15 people reports smelling phantom odors that aren’t really there.

Some people are more likely to have problems with their sense of smell.

Older people are more likely to have smell loss.

4% of people aged 40-49

11% of people aged 50-59

13% of people aged 60-69

25% of people aged 70-79

39% of people aged 80 or older

People with a history of:

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to some medications and cancer treatments
  • Head injury
  • Dental or nasal problems, such as head colds
  • Conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease

Having problems with your sense of smell?

Talk to your doctor, or learn more.


Smell Disorders fact sheet.

U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Analyses reported in Chemical Senses in 2016, JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery in 2018, and Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders in 2016.

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