VCU researchers conducting an ongoing COVID-19 smell and taste loss survey identify array of potential short-term and long-term health impacts

The loss of smell or taste for COVID-19 survivors who experience those symptoms frequently leads to depression, a loss of appetite and a decreased enjoyment of life, according to an ongoing Virginia Commonwealth University study.

In the study of quality of life and safety for those with loss of smell or taste related to COVID-19, 43% of participants reported feeling depressed.

Of the 322 respondents to the ongoing COVID-19 smell and taste loss survey who had tested positive for COVID-19 and reported a loss of smell or taste, 56% reported decreased enjoyment of life in general while experiencing their loss of smell or taste. The most common quality-of-life concern was reduced enjoyment of food, with 87% of respondents indicating it was an issue. An inability to smell smoke was the most common safety risk, reported by 45% of those surveyed.

The C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research, VCU's Clinical and Translational Science hub, established and maintains the database for the ongoing survey for those experiencing loss of smell and taste through funding from a National Institutes of Health grant.

Evan Reiter, M.D., medical director of the Smell and Taste Disorders Center at VCU Health and a member of the VCU research team that created the survey, says the health and safety concerns stemming from these responses give insights into the larger picture of the long-term health impacts of COVID-19.

“People who have had smell or taste loss are exposed to these risks of having personal safety events, depression or reduced quality of life,” Reiter said, “so it’s important for their health care providers to have real discussions with people about what they can or should do to compensate for their loss, whether it’s short term or long term. The hope is that they can avoid some of these patient safety issues or nutritional issues due to food aversions.”

 

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