Monday 27 September 2021

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The researchers who brought loss of taste and smell as Covid-19 symptoms to national and international prominence have presented further findings which show that extended experience of these conditions (anosmia and parosmia) can have profound psychological impacts on sufferers.

A research paper, ‘Altered smell and taste: anosmia, parosmia and the impact of long Covid-19’, has been published in the journal PLOS ONE. It is co-written by Professor Barry Smith, director of the Institute of Philosophy (IP) and the Centre for the Study of the Senses at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, with colleagues from universities in North-East England, founder of AbScent (and IP fellow) Chris Kelly, ENT clinician Professor Claire Hopkins, Dr Miglena Campbell and Professor Vincent Deary.

Media coverage has already broken in the US including an interview with lead author Dr Duika Burgess-Watson (Newcastle University) in the New York Times (a paywall-free version is available here).

The research paper is based on patient-led research and charts the profound psychological and social impact on people who suffer from Covid-19 induced loss or distortion of smell. The conclusion in a pre-print version reads: ‘Our findings suggest altered taste and smell with Covid-19 lead to a severe disruption to daily living that impacts on psychological well-being and health. Moreover, this impact is broad, spanning flavour perception; desire and ability to eat and prepare food; weight gain, loss and nutritional sufficiency; emotional wellbeing; professional practice; intimacy; social bonding and erosion of people’s very sense of reality. Our findings should inform the training, assessment and treatment practices of health care professionals working with long Covid.’

The examples are dramatic, with one sufferer saying, ‘I feel alien from myself. It’s also a kind of loneliness in the world. Like a part of me is missing as I can no longer smell and experience the emotions of everyday basic living”. And according to another, ‘I feel less confident with my partner now…My partner doesn’t smell the way he did.’

Professor Barry Smith commented: ‘Through the sudden loss of smell, patients discover how important their sense of smell is to their knowledge and emotional connection to the world around them, and themselves.’

The original research by this group led to loss of taste and smell being accepted globally as symptoms of Covid-19.


Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact Professor Barry Smith (