stigma of hair loss

Hair loss is one of the most common conditions worldwide. So, why is it still surrounded by so much stigma?

A new study has revealed patients who suffer with alopecia areata are frequently stigmatised because of the condition. Interestingly, it also showed that the level of stigma depended upon the severity of the alopecia.

Here, we will look at what the study found and why there is still a stigma surrounding hair loss today.

What the latest study revealed

A cross-sectional study was carried out in America, with participants asked to fill out online surveys. They were required to react to images of individuals who were experiencing different degrees of hair loss. Alongside the images, participants were also asked to answer questions relating to stereotypes, disease, and social distance myths.

It was revealed that the more severe the level of hair loss, the more stigma occurred. Those who were completely bald due to alopecia were seen as not attractive or sick. Work related questions also posed concern, with 6.2% of respondents claiming they would be reluctant to hire somebody with alopecia. A total of 16.9% said they would also feel uncomfortable having physical contact with somebody who has alopecia.

The researchers discovered it was largely down to a lack of understanding about the condition. Those who did recognise alopecia as a medical condition didn’t have as much stigma towards it.

Why is there still stigma relating to hair loss today?

Due to how common hair loss is, you would think that there would be a lot less stigma surrounding the condition. Both men and women are widely known to suffer with age or genetic related hair loss. The trouble is society today places a lot of importance on aesthetics.

In an interview with the BBC on the stigma surrounding male pattern baldness and its effects on men, Dr David Fenton commented:

“Representations of physical perfection in the media lead many men to seek self-esteem in their appearance. People create confidence and self-esteem from it, and when they lose even a little bit, if their character and confidence is based on that, they’re going to have severe emotional and psychological impacts.”

Social media certainly plays a role in the stigma surrounding the condition. There is more pressure to look perfect now than there ever was before. Despite increasing awareness of hair loss, there are still a large number of people who are unfamiliar with alopecia areata and the fact it is a medical condition.

Understanding alopecia

Alopecia areata can vary greatly in severity. It is a medical condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. Typically, small patches of hair fall out, but in some cases, it can affect the entire scalp. There is no cure for alopecia areata currently, although new treatments are continuously being researched.

The new research shows that there is still a lot of work to be done to eliminate the stigma surrounding the condition and hair loss as a whole.