Can stress lead to baldness?

We all know there’s a heavy price to pay for fame and fortune. There's the frayed relationships, long work hours, unmitigated stress, sleepless nights, migraine headaches and depression. But going bald?


The answer behind hair loss might just be in your hands

Scientists in South Korea have found the stress of working long hours might damage the hair follicles of men. As part of the first study of its kind, scientists from Sungkyunkwan University analyzed 13,391 employed men between 2013 and 2017. The participants were between 20 and 59 years old. Women were not included in the study.

Participants were divided into three groups: “normal” workers who were on the job for 40 hours a week, “long” workers who spent up to 52 hours in the office and “much longer” workers who toiled for over 52 hours across seven days.

Scientists found those in their 20s or 30s that worked at least 52 hours a week were twice as likely to develop alopecia than their less fanatical colleagues. Alopecia (the general term for hair loss) increased by almost 4 per cent in the “much longer” group, compared to 3 per cent in the “long” group, and 2 per cent among the “normal” workers. Results remained true after scientists adjusted for income, smoking and marital status.

The study found that too much time in the office causes immense stress, which is thought to damage hair follicles. Stress might also push hair follicles into entering the “catagen” phase, or the transitional stage between when hair actively grows and when it “rests.”

Another reason for the increased risk of hair loss is due to testosterone ( the primary male sex hormone) producing a byproduct called dihydrotestosterone that causes hair follicles to shrink.

“The results of this study demonstrate long working hours is significantly associated with the increased development of alopecia in male workers,” according to lead author Dr Kyung-Hun Son.


Furthermore, the strength of association increased linearly as work time got longer. Limitation of working hours in order to prevent alopecia development may be more necessary from younger workers, such as those in the twenties and thirties, at which hair loss symptoms start to appear.”

“We can cautiously assume the relationship between long working hours and the development of alopecia is likely to be mediated by job-related stress,” said Dr. Son.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Bindu Sthalekar, a Mumbai-based, informed, “There are multifactorial causes of hair fall such as hormonal imbalances, anaemia, zinc deficiency, protein deficiency, thryroid abnormalities etc. Stress is one cause of hair fall, but it is not the primary cause of hair fall. There is no direct correlation between stress and hair fall.”

She added, “You cannot say that working long hours can lead to hair fall. It depend on the activity that you are doing. Conflicts with loved ones, examinations, lack of sleep are factors which can cause stress. So stress is a factor which influences hair fall but it does not have an direct effect on hair fall.”

While Dr Chitra Naik, a dermatologist from Mumbai’s civic-run Nair Hospital, said, “There is no concrete evidence that stress can cause hair fall. Any illness can also cause stress on the body. This condition is known as Telogen Effluvium. It is a form of temporary hair loss that usually happens after a stressful event.”

She added, “There is no evidence that mental stress can lead to hair fall. I am not aware of any studies so far. Hair fall can be caused due to many factors, stress is just one of them. Unhealthy eating habits, eating packaged foods that can cause hormonal imbalances in the body and this can cause hair to fall. Stress cannot directly lead to hair fall. Not everyone who undergoes stress is prone to hair fall.”