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Quick Statistics About Taste and Smell


  • Almost 1 in 5 Americans (or 19%) over the age of 40 reports some alteration in their sense of taste.1
    • The prevalence of reported alterations in the sense of taste increases with age, and is highest, at 27%, for people ages 80 years and older.1
    • Risk factors include dry mouth, nose/facial injury, and cold or flu lasting more than a month in the past year.1
  • 1 in 20 Americans (or 5%) 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% 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 United States, about 25% are super-tasters who describe PTC as extremely bitter, 50% are medium tasters of PTC, and 25% cannot taste PTC.2 Medium tasters and especially super-tasters tend to dislike more types of food, particularly if they are strongly flavored.3
  • Compared to never smokers, dependent smokers (people who need to smoke within 30 minutes of waking) and chronic smokers (people who have smoked a pack daily for several years) reported lower sensitivity to bitter and salty tastes.4
  • Among 138,897 COVID-19-positive patients, 39.2% reported taste dysfunction.5


  • Nearly 1 in 4 Americans (or 23%) over the age of 40 reports some alteration in their sense of smell.1
    • Rates increase in older populations and are highest for those over 80 years old, at 32%.1
    • Risk factors include sinonasal symptoms (of the nose and sinuses), heavy drinking, previous loss of consciousness from head injury, poverty, and dry mouth.1
  • Approximately 1 in 15 Americans (or 6.5%) 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.6)
    • Women are more likely to report phantom odors, particularly if they are between the ages of 40 and 60, compared to above 60 years of age.7
    • Those with a history of head injury or poor overall health are more likely to report phantom odors.6
  • Approximately 1 in 8 Americans over age 40 (up to 13.3 million people, or 12.4% of the population) has measurable smell dysfunction.7
    • Approximately 3% of Americans have anosmia (no sense of smell) or severe hyposmia (minimal sense of smell).7
    • The prevalence of any type of smell impairment increases with age: 4% in Americans ages 40-49, 11% in Americans ages 50-59, 13% in Americans ages 60-69, 25% in Americans 70-79, and 39% in Americans ages 80 and above.7
    • 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.7
  • On average, people with smell dysfunction eat a less healthy diet, with more saturated fats and added sugars.8


  1. Rawal, S; Hoffman, HJ; Bainbridge, KE; Huedo-Medina, TB; Duffy, VB (2016): 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. Jan;41(1):69-76. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjv057. 
  2. Guo, SW; Reed, DR (2001): The genetics of phenylthiocarbamide perception. Annals of Human Biology. Mar-Apr;28(2):111-42. doi: 10.1080/03014460151056310.
  3. Tepper, BJ (1998): 6-n-Propylthiouracil: A genetic marker for taste, with implications for food preference and dietary habits. American Journal of Human Genetics. Nov;63(5):1271-6. doi: 10.1086/302124.
  4. Berube, L; Duffy, VB; Hayes, JE; Hoffman, HJ; Rawal, S (2021): Associations between chronic cigarette smoking and taste function: Results from the 2013-2014 national health and nutrition examination survey. Physiol Behav. Oct 15:240:113554. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2021.113554. 
  5. Hannum, ME; Koch, RJ; Ramirez, VA; Marks, SS; Toskala, AK; Herriman, RD; Lin, C; Joseph, PV; Reed, DR (2023): Taste loss as a distinct symptom of COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Chem Senses. Jan 1:48:bjad043. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjad043.
  6. Bainbridge, KE; Byrd-Clark, D; Leopold, D (2018): Factors associated with phantom odor perception among US adults: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Sep 1;144(9):807-814. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2018.1446.
  7. Hoffman, HJ; Rawal, S; Li, CM; Duffy, VB (2016): 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. Jun;17(2):221-40. doi: 10.1007/s11154-016-9364-1.
  8. Rawal, S; Duffy, VB; Berube, L; Hayes, JE; Kant, AK; Li, CM; Graubard, BI; Hoffman, HJ (2021): Self-Reported Olfactory Dysfunction and Diet Quality: Findings from the 2011-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Nutrients. Dec 20;13(12):4561. doi: 10.3390/nu13124561.
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