What the nose knows isn’t just important for knowing which subway cars to avoid — new research finds it’s also vital for a healthy sex life.
Researchers at the Smell & Taste Clinic at James Paget University Hospital found that problems with smelling have dire impacts on peoples’ emotional well-being and personal relationships, according to the study published in the journal Clinical Otolaryngology in December.
The scientists looked at 71 individuals, ages 31 to 80, who had impaired senses of smell — be it from infections, injury, neurological diseases, the side effect of medication or Alzheimer’s disease. Study co-author and University of East Anglia professor Carl Philpott reported that most patients experience a loss of flavor perception, which in some cases also impacted their appetite, or made them perceive nonexistent smells.
“A large number of the participants no longer enjoyed eating, and some had lost appetite and weight,” says Philpott in a press release. “Others were eating more food with low nutritional value … and had consequently gained weight.”
Also, struggling to smell made some participants lose interest in cooking and become embarrassed to serve dishes at gatherings of family or friends, negatively impacting their social lives. Lack of smell also made it difficult to create memories linking scents — bonfires, Christmas, perfumes — and experiences.
Feelings were impacted, too.
“Previous research has shown that people who have lost their sense of smell also report high rates of depression, anxiety, isolation and relationship difficulties,” says Philpott, adding that many study participants reported a “negative impact on relationships,” including a loss of sexual intimacy.
Smell also has survival benefits.
“One really big problem was around hazard perception — not being able to smell food that had gone off, or not being able to smell gas or smoke. This had resulted in serious near misses for some,” says Philpott, calling smell “a life-saving sense.”
To add insult to injury, many participants say the medical community doesn’t understand the extent of their troubles.
“The participants described a lot of negative and unhelpful interactions with health care professionals,” says Philpott.
Hopefully, the publications of the research findings will help change that in the long term.
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