By Dr. Brian McDonough

By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There is very interesting work being done by the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project.

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The purpose of these efforts is to study social relationships and health in older adults but they look at unique things. Here is an example.

We know that many older people lose the sense of smell as they age, but this project has taken a different look at this loss of smell. They have information that suggests if a senior has trouble correctly identifying scents, it may not bode too well for their chances of surviving the next five years.

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University of Chicago researchers looked at more than 3,000 older men and women and measured their ability to identify five common odors: rose, leather, orange, fish, and peppermint. Five years later, the team checked back to see whether participants were alive or dead.

39% of study subjects who were characterized as having an inability to smell had died by the 5-year follow-up, compared to 19% of those who had only moderate smell loss, and 10% of those who smelled normally.

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According to the authors, this may be a five-year predictive factor.