Science

Society ‘stigmatises’ hair loss and alopecia, study finds

People without hair are seen as unattractive, dirty, contagious and unintelligent by the general public, a study has found. 

Researchers in America surveyed more than 2,000 people about how they felt about alopecia –  the general medical term for hair loss. 

Their findings suggest that as many as one in six people would be uncomfortable having physical contact with someone with alopecia.

Data also revealed 6.2 per cent of people would not be comfortable hiring someone with alopecia for a job. 

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Scientists from Harvard surveyed more than 2,000 people online and provided them with six images of people created via a combination of stock images and AI. These same people were then edited to make two additional versions — one with a bald head and one with no visible hair at all, including the loss of eyebrows, eyelashes and facial hair. Pictured, examples of the images used 

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS? 

It is perfectly normal for people to lose small amounts of hair as it replenishes itself and, on average, people can shed between 50 and 100 hairs per day.

However, if people start to lose entire patches of hair or large amounts of it it can be more distressing and potentially a sign of something serious.

Pattern baldness is a common cause of hair loss as people grow older. At least half of men over the age of 50 will lose some of their hair just through the ageing process, according to the British Association of Dermatologists.

Women may lose their hair as they grow older, too.

Other, more concerning causes of hair loss include stress, cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, weight loss or an iron deficiency.

Most hair loss is temporary, however, and can be expected to grow back. 

Specific medical conditions which cause the hair to fall out include alopecia, a disorder of the immune system; an underactive or overactive thyroid; the skin condition lichen planus or Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. 

People should visit their doctor if their hair starts to fall out in lumps, falls out suddenly, if their scalp itches or burns, and if hair loss is causing them severe stress.

‘Patients with the most severe hair loss were thought to be sick (29.8 per cent), not attractive (27.2 per cent), contagious (9.9 per cent), unintelligent (3.9 per cent), and dirty (3.9 per cent), the researchers write in their study, published today in JAMA Dermatology

Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, leading to hair loss.

It has several subcategories depending on severity, ranging from alopecia universalis (total loss of all bodily hair) to alopecia areata (patchy loss of head hair).

There is no known cure for alopecia and famous suffers include British comedian Matt Lucas and ex-NFL player Ryan Shazier.

Scientists from Harvard surveyed more than 2,000 people online and provided them with six images of people created via a combination of stock images and AI. 

These same people were then edited to make two additional versions — one with a bald head and one with no hair at all, including eyebrows, eyelashes and facial hair.

The 18 portraits were presented to the participants who then answered a variety of questions on a five-point scale based solely on appearance. 

Data showed that as alopecia severity increased, so too did the level of stigmatism a person suffered.

One such statement was ‘this person is unattractive’, which 27.2 per cent of people agreed with for people with complete hair loss. 

The figure for the same person but with hair was 16.5 per cent lower. 

The disparity was even more severe when people were asked if a person looked ‘sick’. Almost 30 per cent of people said a person who was completely bald looked ill, 27.6 per cent more than for the same individual but with hair.

Researchers also found the likelihood of a person being considered to have a medical condition varied depending on sex and race. 

For example, a black woman was considered to have a medical condition by one third of participants. However, it rises to 75.7 per cent for a white man.

‘These findings suggest that laypersons may stigmatise individuals with alopecia, that their stigma increases with alopecia severity, and that it can be influenced by the patient’s race and sex,’ the researchers write. 

They also warn that the stigma attached to people with alopecia extends to the workplace. 

'Patients with the most severe hair loss were thought to be sick (29.8 per cent), not attractive (27.2 per cent), contagious (9.9 per cent), unintelligent (3.9 per cent), and dirty (3.9 per cent), the researchers writ in their study, published today in JAMA Dermatology

‘Patients with the most severe hair loss were thought to be sick (29.8 per cent), not attractive (27.2 per cent), contagious (9.9 per cent), unintelligent (3.9 per cent), and dirty (3.9 per cent), the researchers writ in their study, published today in JAMA Dermatology

‘Respondents reported that they would not feel comfortable having physical contact with patients with alopecia (16.9 per cent) or hiring them for a job (6.2 per cent),’ the researchers add. 

‘These findings confirm the concerns of patients with alopecia who have expressed fears that their disease could affect their professional careers.’

Dr Kerry Montgomery, a psychologist and the Psychological Wellbeing Lead at Alopecia UK, a charity which aims to help those affected by alopecia, told MailOnline: ‘At Alopecia UK we hear from individuals with alopecia who experience negative reactions from others, ranging from staring, to questions, to uninvited comments and even bullying. 

‘As a result, some stop going out and socialising. Sadly, the findings of this study highlight issues we are aware of for people with alopecia. 

‘There is a myth that alopecia is contagious, or that hair loss always means someone is sick. This is simply not the case and yet these myths persist.

‘We also hear from people who have had negative experiences in the workplace which they feel is a result of having alopecia. 

‘With this study reporting that 6.2 per cent of people would not feel comfortable hiring someone with alopecia, it highlights the reality of discrimination in the workplace.

‘Reading the findings of this study may be upsetting to people with alopecia; however, in some ways it may also validate their experience – that stigma surrounding hair loss is real.’

Scientists claim to have found an extract from mangrove trees that can cure BALDNESS 

Thai researchers claim to have found an extract from mangrove trees that can cure baldness. 

A small study of 50 people suffering with androgenic alopecia — the most common form of baldness — indicates that the extract halts hair loss and also promotes hair growth.

The substance, called Avicennia Marin, contains the key chemical Avicequinon-C.

This active compound is thought to reverse hair loss by interfering with enzymes which lead to elevated hormone levels that cause baldness.  

Researchers hope the findings could help people suffering from androgenetic alopecia to reverse their hair loss.


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