(DRESDEN, Germany) -- People born without a sense of smell experience higher social insecurity and are at increased risk of depression than those who have functioning olfaction, a new study finds.
Approximately 14 million Americans suffer from some sort of lack of smell, according to the Anosmia Foundation. Now, researchers from the University of Dresden Medical School in Germany have analyzed the questionnaires of 32 study participants with anosmia and found that participants born with isolated congenital anosmia, or ICA -- a lack of the sense of smell since birth in otherwise healthy people -- worried more about social situations than the control group.
Those with congenital anosmia reported worrying about their own body odor, were more likely to avoid eating with others and showed slightly higher scores for depression than those who could smell.
"ICA patients differ only slightly in daily life functions related to olfaction," study authors wrote. "These differences are increased social insecurity, enhanced risk for depressive symptoms and enhanced risk for household accidents."
What makes these patients interesting when evaluating them in a clinic is that they have never known what it is like to smell, so it can be difficult for a physician to even ask them questions about it, said Dr. Eric Holbrook, of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary with Harvard Medical School.
"One common comment that I hear from adults who come to me with this problem is that they remember that they would lie to friends about being able to smell a strong odor while in a social gathering," said Holbrook. "This seems mundane to people who can smell, but it stresses how these patients feel like they don't fit in at times."
Usually people who are most affected by lack of smell are those who could smell at one point and then lost the ability to smell, said Dr. Allen Seiden, director of the Taste and Smell Clinic at University of Cincinnati. Otherwise, those who have never experienced smell may not experience such feelings of loss.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio