Poor Sense Of Smell ‘Raises Depression Risk'

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Experts suggest you’re more likely to feel depressed if you can't smell, according to a new study published this week.

Being born with no sense of smell (known as ‘anosmia’), suggest researchers at the University of Dresden Medical School in Germany, makes you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression than those able to pick up life’s olfactory (smell) cues.

“These differences included enhanced social insecurity [and] increased risk for depressive symptoms,” states the study published March 21 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

In the Daily Mail, non-smeller Kate Battersby describes feelings of social anxiety: “I do quite often wonder if either I or my house smell terrible, and people are simply too polite to tell me.”

The study notes younger patients feel the impact of a poor sense of smell most severely - and while it’s not yet known exactly what prompts such feelings of insecurity, the authors suggest smell plays a role.

Anosmic blogger Susan writes about feelings of anxiety on Consider Food: “I was told I would never smell again, that I was lucky, that I could still walk, see, hear and speak. But life changed beyond measure. My days felt somehow muffled. Without the smell of the sea, of my family, of food and of danger, life was tough. Disconnected.”

In addition, new research (released today) shows people of working age who live alone are more likely to be depressed. According to a new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Public Health, the risk is almost 80% higher compared to those living with friends or family. The number of people living alone has doubled over the last three decades, reaching one in three in the UK and US.

Anosmia: The Facts, according to Cardiff University’s Tim Jacob
  • Anosmia is a condition in which the sense of smell is reduced or lost entirely.
  • The condition can be caused by a traumatic head injury, nasty virus, or be congenital (you’re born with it).
  • Anosmia is not life-threatening.
  • As flavour is 80% smell, say experts, anosmics often lose interest in food.

Visit Jacob’s information page, for more information.

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People Who Lack Sense of Smell May Be More At Risk of Depression