New research has linked the sense of smell with one's death. This finding is said to be different from other health variables such as age, gender and chronic mental disorders like dementia.
This study was carried out by researchers from the University of Stockholm, Sweden with Dr Jonas Olofsson as the lead researcher. They analysed 1,774 people belonging to the age group 40 to 90, over a decade.
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"After controlling for demographic, health-related, and cognitive confounders, each additional correctly identified odor lowered the risk of mortality by 8 percent. Individuals who performed at chance level on tests (indicating complete olfactory loss) were at a 19 percent higher risk of death than individuals with normal smell function," said the statement.
Around 23 percent of those who took part in the study, ie, 411 out of 1774 died during the experiment. Those participants who could identify odours correctly were said to be at an 8 percent lower mortality risk.
Hence, olfactory loss was considered as a signal of increased death risk in middle-aged and elderly people.
The researchers concluded that the results of this experiment point towards the fact that assessing the olfactory system may shed light on the ageing brain.
"Our results were not explained by dementia, which was previously linked to smell loss. Instead, mortality risk was uniquely predicted by smell loss," said Dr Olofsson.
"In our future research, we will try to pinpoint the biological processes that can explain this phenomenon," he added.
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This research has been published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.