Hair loss due to too much work stress - study shows connection

Hair loss due to too much work stress - study shows connection

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Do stress and long working hours lead to hair loss?

If men work very long on a regular basis, this greatly increases their likelihood of developing hair loss. Working too long a week seems to double hair loss in men.

A study by the Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine in Seoul found that working too long in men encouraged hair loss and baldness. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine".

More than 52 hours of work a week double hair loss

If men worked more than 52 hours a week, this doubled the rate of their hair loss compared to men who work less than 40 hours a week, the researchers report. Stress seems to be behind the increased hair loss, which is caused by too much work and a lack of recovery time. The study examined more than 13,000 men and is the first study to specifically look at the effects of long working hours on hair loss, the research team said.

Hormones can inhibit growth patterns of hair follicles

Changes in hormone levels that are triggered by stress can have devastating effects in various parts of the body. When these additional hormones are formed, they can inhibit the growth patterns of the hair follicles on the scalp.

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Previous studies have shown that stress causes the immune system to attack hair follicles. The reasons for this are not yet known. It is assumed that our hair enters the so-called catagen phase (transition phase) prematurely due to stress. If hair falls out in this second stage of the hair growth cycle, it will not be able to regrow, causing bald spots on the head.

The three phases of hair growth

Human hair goes through three growth cycles: during the so-called anagen phase, the hair in the follicle is formed in the scalp and the hair becomes longer and thicker. Next, hair growth goes into the catagen phase. In this phase, cell division stops and the hair root begins to shrink. At the end of this two-week phase, the hair root finally cornified.

In the telogen phase, the metabolic activity of the hair follicle is stopped, which ultimately leads to the hair falling out. After this phase, new hair begins to grow, which pushes the old hair out of the follicle, causing it to fall out. Finally, the whole process is repeated. An occurrence of extreme stress can shake the system and bring a lot more hair into the hair loss phase, the researchers sum up.

Over 13,000 men participated in the study

Between 2013 and 2017, 13,391 men between the ages of 20 and 59 were examined for the study. The subjects were divided into three groups. One group included men who worked 40 hours a week. The second group worked up to 52 hours a week, while the participants in the third group worked over 52 hours a week. Factors such as age, marital status, education, monthly household income, smoking and working hours were also taken into account in the study.

Long working hours are associated with the development of hair loss

Long working hours were found to be significantly related to the development of alopecia (hair loss). The frequency of balding in the normal group was two percent at the end of the study. In the group of men who worked up to 52 hours, it was already three percent and when men worked longer than 52 hours a week, just under four percent were affected.

Should younger workers with hair loss reduce their working hours?

The results of this study show that long working hours are significantly related to the increasing development of alopecia in male workers. Limiting working hours to prevent the development of alopecia could make sense for younger workers between the ages of 20 and 40 if they experience symptoms of hair loss, according to the research team.

Stress causes hair to fall out

Various studies have already shown the mechanism of the development of alopecia through stress. In experiments on mice, stress was significantly associated with the inhibition of hair growth, the induction of the catagen cycle and the damage to the hair follicles. Other studies have shown that stress can cause injuries and inflammation of the hair follicles and cell death, as well as inhibit hair growth.

Other causes of hair loss

The stress caused by long working hours is probably a process that continues to build up and get worse with time, the researchers explain. However, other stressful events can also trigger accelerated hair loss, which can often be observed, for example, in women after traumatic births. Other causes of hair loss include genetic factors, infections, androgen hormone imbalance, poor circulation, nutritional imbalance, and drug use. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Kyung-Hun Son, Byung-Seong Suh, Han-Seur Jeong, Min-Woo Nam, Hyunil Kim, Hyeong-Cheol Kim: Relationship between working hours and probability to take alopecia medicine among Korean male workers: a 4-year follow-up study, in Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (query: 23.10.2019), AOEM

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