Poor sense of smell may signify a higher risk for pneumonia hospitalization in older adults |
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Poor sense of smell may signify a higher risk for pneumonia hospitalization in older adults

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Having a poor sense of smell is associated with higher risk of pneumonia in older adults aged 65 years or above, says a new cohort study from the Michigan State University, published in the journal Lancet Healthy Longevity.

The study recruited participants from the Health, Aging and Body Composition study. Health data from 2494 older adults, ages 71-82, was analyzed to look for any association between poor sense of smell and a higher future risk of developing pneumonia. The participants were given a Brief Smell Identification Test, or B-SIT, using common smells such as lemons and gasoline to determine if their sense of smell was good, moderate or poor. They were followed up until the date of pneumonia hospitalization, death, last contact, or the end of 13 years of follow-up, whichever came first with annual clinic or home visits and semi-annual or quarterly telephone interviews to identify hospitalization due to pneumonia.


  • Compared with participants who had a good sense of smell, those who had a poor sense of smell had almost 50% higher chances of being hospitalized with pneumonia at any time point during the follow-up.
  • Among participants with a poor sense of smell who never had pneumonia before, the risk of having the first-ever pneumonia hospitalizationwas about 40% higher.
  • Moderate olfaction was not associated with a higher rate of total or first-ever pneumonia.

The study is published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity, May 1, 2021

Dr KK Aggarwal

President CMAAO, HCFI and Past National President IMA

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