The link between certain jobs and hair loss has long been suspected, given work is often a stressful necessity, and stress is a long-established contributor to hair thinning.
Over the years, various studies have pointed to particular professions being more at risk of developing stress-related hair loss, as well as ‘big earners’ whose wages are £75,000 per year or more. People working night shifts have also been identified as a group more prone to losing their hair.
Now, a study published in the Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal has shown that men who work more than 52 hours per week or more – for example, 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday – may lose their hair at twice the rate of those who work a 40 hour week – for instance, five days of 9am to 5pm – or less.
Working long hours shown to speed up hair loss in men
Researchers from Seoul’s Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine in South Korea investigated hair loss in men aged between 20 and 59, from 2013 to 2017.
In total, they studied 13,391 men who were classified into one of three groups based on their normal working weeks. The ‘normal’ group worked a 40 hour week, the ‘long’ group worked up to 52 hours per week, whilst the ‘much longer’ group worked over 52 hours each week.
Once data was adjusted to take into account factors such as age, marital status, education, work schedule, monthly income and whether or not they smoked, the team concluded that long working hours had a significant effect on hair loss in men.
This was based on findings which saw a 2 per cent incident rate of hairloss in the ‘normal’ group, a 3 per cent rate in the ‘long’ group and a rate of just under 4 per cent in the ‘much longer’ group.
The explanation given for these responses was that it was likely a combination of too much work and not enough rest or relaxation, the result of which disrupted the normal functioning of the hair growth cycle. This particularly related to stress invoking the premature onset of the catagen phase, during which active hair growth pauses, leading to the telogen phase when the hairs then begin to shed.
“The results of this study demonstrate that long working hours is significantly associated with the increased development of alopecia in male workers,” says the study’s lead author, Kyung-Hun Son.
“Limitation of working hours in order to prevent alopecia development may be more necessary from younger workers, such as those in the 20s and 30s, at which hair loss symptoms start to appear…
“In mice experiments, stress was significantly related to the inhibition of hair growth, induction of catagen cycle, and damage of hair follicles…
Other researches have also suggested that stress can affect injuries and inflammations of hair follicles, cell deaths, and inhibit hair growth.”
As no women were studied for this research, it is currently unknown whether females working long hours – traditionally, often longer than men where the physical and emotional labour of having a career and caring for a family are involved – have the same types of reactions.
Common types of stress-induced hair loss
The type of hairloss typically caused by stress is known as Telogen Effluvium. It presents as diffuse thinning all over the scalp which becomes noticeable roughly three months after being triggered.
Whilst generally more common in women, this temporary hair loss condition can also affect men and, when it does, it may have something of a knock on effect, given it can spark or exacerbate androgenetic alopecia.
Although Male Pattern Baldness was not specifically mentioned in the South Korean study, this is the leading cause of hair loss in men, globally.
For men with existing cases of this common hereditary complaint, which can start any time following puberty in those with the relevant genetic predisposition, or those where the underlying condition is not yet active, a bout of Telogen Effluvium may worsen or prematurely bring on this permanent hair loss condition.
This tends to last for up to six weeks, with normal hair regrowth often resuming naturally, though treatment is also possible in many cases. Where it takes more than six months, this is known as Chronic Telogen Effluvium or Diffuse Thinning.
Although stress is also known to be a factor in some diagnoses of the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata, where patchy hair loss affects the scalp, this tends to be the result of a different type of stress, usually sudden shock or trauma.
Preventing burnout and stress-related hair loss
Genetics, air pollution and work – the list of seemingly unavoidable factors that can cause or worsen hair loss often appears to grow by the day. Luckily, there are a range of options available to help prevent baldness from setting in.
When it comes to work-related stress, make a realistic evaluation of your situation as, chances are, if you are stressed enough for your hair to be affected, it may also be taking its toll on your general health and potentially other areas of your life, such as relationships.
Looking at ways to manage your workload – such as better time management, delegation and recruitment – are also worth examining, in order to restore a better work/life balance.
Additionally, look at your lifestyle; people who are stressed out may often make unwise health choices due to time constraints or tiredness. These include smoking and drinking more alcohol, exercising less, having an unbalanced diet and/or overeating, plus not getting enough sleep. All of these factors can further contribute to both hair loss and the hair being in poor condition, where it can become dry, thin and brittle.
Adapting a stress-management system both at work and in your free time should help to reduce the negative elements; then, for addressing any thinning hair or receding hairline concerns, a tailored male hair loss treatment course can be helpful.
Recommendations for clinically-proven oral and topical medications, as well as additional hair growth supporting products, can be provided by a dedicated hair loss specialist following a consultation, either in person or online.
Also, whilst we can’t prescribe one, a holiday to allow you time away from work to boost your vitamin D levels wouldn’t hurt either…
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.