Recent work suggests that olfactory dysfunction is a strong predictor of five-year mortality in older adults. Based on past work showing: 1) that olfactory dysfunction impairs social functioning and 2) that social ties are linked with mortality, the current work explored whether impairments in social life mediated the relationship between olfactory dysfunction and mortality. Additionally, based on work showing gender differences in the social consequences of olfactory dysfunction, gender was assessed as a potential moderator of this association. Social network size mediated the olfactory-mortality link for females. To probe what feature of social networks was driving this effect, we investigated two subcomponents of social life: emotional closeness (e.g., perceived social support, loneliness) and physical closeness (e.g., physical contact, in-person socializing with others). Physical closeness significantly mediated the olfactory-mortality link for females, even after controlling for social network size. Emotional closeness did not mediate this link. Possible mechanisms underlying this relationship are discussed.
Leschak, C. J., & Eisenberger, N. I. (2018). The role of social relationships in the link between olfactory dysfunction and mortality. PLoS ONE, 13(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196708