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Quick Statistics About Taste and Smell
- Almost 1 in 5 Americans (or 19 percent) over the age of 40 reports some alteration in their sense of taste.1
- 1 in 20 Americans (or 5 percent) reports experiencing dysgeusia [dis-GYOO-zee-a], a disorder characterized by distorted taste.1 This disorder is often persistent.
- Dysgeusia is more commonly reported in women (64 percent of reported cases).1
- Based on their genetics, certain people can taste the bitterness of phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) or a related substance called 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP). In the U.S., about 25 percent are super-tasters who describe PTC as extremely bitter, 50 percent are medium tasters of PTC, and 25 percent cannot taste PTC.2 Medium tasters and especially super-tasters tend to dislike more types of food, particularly if they are strongly flavored.3
- The ability to taste PTC/PROP varies around the world and among different ethnic and racial groups.2
- Nearly 1 in 4 Americans (or 23 percent) over the age of 40 reports some alteration in their sense of smell.1
- Approximately 1 in 15 Americans (or 6.5 percent) over the age of 40 reports sometimes experiencing phantom odor perception. (The survey asked if participants smelled unpleasant, bad, or burning odors when nothing is there; not all phantom odor perception fits into this category.4)
- Approximately 1 in 8 Americans over age 40 (up to 13.3 million people, or 12.4 percent of the population) has measurable smell dysfunction.5
- Approximately 3 percent of Americans have anosmia (no sense of smell) or severe hyposmia (minimal sense of smell).5
- The prevalence of any type of smell impairment increases with age: 4 percent in Americans ages 40-49, 11 percent in Americans ages 50-59, 13 percent in Americans ages 60-69, 25 percent in Americans 70-79, and 39 percent in Americans ages 80 and above.5
- The prevalence of smell impairment is higher in men, ethnic minorities (non-Hispanic Black and Mexican American), and in those with lower educational attainment and/or family income.5
- Rawal S, Hoffman HJ, Bainbridge KE, Huedo-Medina TB, Duffy VB. Prevalence and risk factors of self-reported smell and taste alterations: Results from the 2011–2012 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Chem Senses. 2016; 41: 69–76.
- Guo SW, Reed DR. The genetics of phenylthiocarbamide perception. Annals of Human Biology. 2001;28(2): 111–142.
- Tepper BJ. 6-n-Propylthiouracil: A genetic marker for taste, with implications for food preference and dietary habits. American Journal of Human Genetics. 1998;63(5):1271-1276.
- Bainbridge KE, Byrd-Clark D, Leopold D. Factors associated with phantom odor perception among US adults: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018;144(9):807–814.
- Hoffman HJ, Rawal S, Li CM, Duffy VB. New chemosensory component in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): First year results for measured olfactory dysfunction. Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2016; 17(2): 221-240.
Last Updated Date:
February 27, 2019