A German study, published in the February edition of Biological Psychology, has found that partial or total anosmia can affect social interaction and make it harder for individuals to find a sexual partner.

Anosmia – the partial, selective or total inability to smell – is thought to affect up to 1 in 5,000 people. As well as a loss of olfaction, sufferers often find their sense of taste severely affected.  It is also thought to have a negative psychological effect on social behaviour.

Female sufferers are less likely to feel safe and secure in a relationship than women with full olfactory perception.

The study found that men suffering from anosmia had on average five times fewer sexual partners than those with a full sense of smell and displayed “much less explorative sexual behaviour”.  This was not the case with women, though the research shows that female sufferers are less likely to feel safe and secure in a relationship than women with full olfactory perception.

While anosmia is often  inherited, it can also result from head trauma, viruses and nasal polyps. Although some forms of anosmia are temporary or can be treated, many instances remain permanent debilitations.

The study backs up anecdotal evidence on the distressing effect that anosmia can have on a sufferer’s romantic life.  As Anita Chang, writing for the Associated Press puts it, “Not having my sense of smell has made kissing quite dull. The excitement, the intimacy of knowing a person’s smell is gone. For me now, kissing is like eating theatre popcorn without the butter. I know I’m missing the best part.”  

Ben McCabe

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Image via Elvert Barnes

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