The study, published in Chemosensory Perception, looked into how anxiety was related to the ability to detect odour. Participants were asked if they could detect a number of smells — both good and bad — in stressed and unstressed states. In all cases, their anxiety was measured using breathing rate, skin electrical conductivity and a survey.
The researchers found a strong correlation between anxiety and ability to smell odours — particularly unpleasant ones. They speculate that it’s an evolutionary phenomenon: a heightened sense of smell can help to detect predators or disease-carriers, exactly the times that one may become anxious.
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