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Olfactory sensitivity and sexual desire in young adult and elderly men: An introductory investigation

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It has been suggested that olfaction could influence human sexual behavior. Age is negatively associated with many aspects of sexuality and, with increasing age, people tend to show a declining sexual desire. The present pilot study investigated the relationship between sexual desire and olfactory sensitivity in healthy men of two age groups, young adult and elderly (≥65 years old), to ascertain whether their sense of smell could determine sexual desire and whether an age-related weaker olfactory sensitivity could correlate with the decline in sexual appetite in elderly patients.


Sixty-three volunteers were recruited and divided into two groups, one consisting of 48 healthy young adult men, the other of 15 healthy elderly men. All participants were tested to ascertain their odor threshold for n-butanol (Sniffin' Sticks) and their sexual desire using the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF), presenting only the questions relating to frequency (IIEF1) and level (IIEF2) of sexual desire.


Sexual desire and mean olfactory thresholds were higher in the younger adults than in the elderly men (p = 0.001 and p = 0.02, respectively). There was a significant association between butanol threshold and sexual desire for the young adult group (p = 0.02), but not for the elderly group (p = 0.35).


This study found a preliminary association between olfaction and sexual behavior, in young adults at least. More studies are needed to improve our knowledge in this intriguing field, possibly using electrophysiological olfactory methods.
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Keywords: Elderly; International Index of Erectile Function; Sniffin' Sticks; male sexual desire; n-butanol; olfactory threshold; young adult

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Neurosciences, Otolaryngology Section, Padova University, Padova, Italy

Publication date: 01 May 2013

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