This may seem like an unimportant question, but if the answer is “yes”, could their be wider implications? Check out my mind-boggling conclusion below the infographic.

Having studied hair loss for ten years, conducted primary research and written three books on the topic I have substantial knowledge that had led me to the gut feeling that hair loss is becoming more prevalent. It’s not something that’s easy to measure, but I can’t help but feel like it’s on the rise. And then I saw the results of an international census on hair loss…

The International Society for Hair Restoration Surgery published statistics that show some distinct trends in people’s interest in hair loss. According to the stats (cited below) people are spending more on hair loss treatments than ever before (way more).

So I dug around a bit into other statistics. I checked out the number of Google searches relating to hair loss (as a proportion of the total number of searches): Hair loss related Google searches have steadily increased year-in-year-out for the last twenty years.

I asked myself, why might this be? Could it be that vanity has increased? That’s quite possible, based on increased exposure to TV and celebrity imagery. Or might it be due to increased stress and increased consumption of junk food? So I investigated these possible causes and have summarised my findings in the infographic below.

is hair loss on the rise

What is my take on this?

I’ve been studying hair loss for a long time. There are a few key causes of hair loss. One is a hormone called DHT, which is treated by the most popular hair loss treatment, Propecia and the other is poor blood flow to the hair, which is treated by the second most popular hair loss treatment, Minoxidil.

It’s theoretically possible that the changes in dietary habits shown in the infographic could cause an increase in DHT. And it’s distinctly possible that increased sedentary behaviour could cause reduced blood flow to the extremities. Could it be something as simple as this, that is causing the possible increase in hair loss? Personally, I think not.

My gut feeling, based on the numerous variables involved in this equation, is that increased mental stress is the cause. The statistics on increased information consumption are quite simply mind boggling. In my opinion, a change this significant, must have consequences.

Funnily enough I wrote a blog post a couple of years back that hypothesized intelligent people are more likely to suffer hair loss. I looked at histories most intelligent people and noticed that 9/10 of them were bald!

It makes sense to me that mental stress could impact on hormonal balance and deplete key “beauty nutrients” such as B vitamins, which are used to help the body cope with stress. Of course it could also be that the link is sedentarism associated with the life of an intellectual, which leads to poorer blood circulation. Or it could be a combination of all of these things.

What you can do about this now

Whatever the answers to these questions are, there are a few things you should do that will help you avoid hair loss and may help improve your health significantly:

Avoid long bouts of sedentary behaviour

Try to move more. Try to exercise daily and try to avoid sitting still for hours on end without getting up and having at least a walk around. Yoga is a form of exercise you can do in a small space without having to get sweaty. There are moves you can do, such as the “Downward Dog” that can force blood to flow to your scalp. While that might not seem like it will help much, in fact, forcing blood to flow into the tiny capillaries that connect to your hair will deliver nutrients to your it.

Personally, I like to do intense exercise every morning before work. This really sets-up me up for the day and getting the exercise done first thing in the morning leaves you feeling satisfied that you’ve already done something really healthy, so whatever else you do today, you’ve done something well worthwhile.

Reduce your stress levels

Exercising will also help increase the hormones that reduce stress and decrease the stress hormones. But if you want to reduce your cortisol hormones without doing anything strenuous, check out this summary of an amazing TED Talk on body positions that decrease cortisol levels. You can literally reduce your stress hormone levels by standing in a specific position for a minute while you wait for a train!

Reduce your information consumption

If you notice you’re on your mobile on the train, on your computer at lunch time and watching TV before bed, try to cut out some of that data consumption. Sitting quietly without interacting with an electronic device might be boring but it’s actually very important. If we don’t give our minds some rest time, stress levels build-up. Give your mind a rest. Consider meditating before bed, or reading. Research conducted by the University of Sussex shows that reading for just six minutes before bed decreases stress levels by up to 68%.

What’s the bottom line?

The stats we’ve examined seem to suggest that we’re increasing our expenditure on hair loss treatments to counteract a problem caused by significant changes in our lifestyles: but would it not be better to properly treat the underlying problem by making our lifestyles fundamentally healthier?

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It might seem like an unimportant question, but if the answer is yes, could there be wider implications in relation to public health? nicehair.org examines the preposition.

Extrapolated worldwide number of hair restoration patients

The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery conducted a census in 2013. Below is a graph showing the total number of hair restoration procedures carried out between 2004 and 2012, with extrapolated numbers shown in grey.

Google search trends

The below graphs show the change in number of searches for the search terms shown above each graph. The trends take into account change in total number of Google searches.

“losing hair”

There is a trend of increase in searches for “losing hair” between 2005 and 2015.

Searches for “Minoxidil” (the second most popular hair loss treatment (see below)) have gone up steadily over the last 20 years. Searches for “Propecia” (the most popular hair loss treatment (see below)) have gone down steadily over the last 20 years.

Hair Loss Treatments

The below pie chart shows how often various treatments were prescribed to patients in 2012, according to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery: 2013 Practice Census Results.

Could Increasing Stress Be a Cause?

If hair loss is on the rise, what else could be changing that might be causal?

Could changing diets be a cause?

Sugar, added fats, fast food and processed food consumption has increased significantly over the last century.

Other Possible reasons for the trends

It’s possible that increased disposable income and increased popularity of hair loss treatments have had an impact on demand for hair loss treatments, meaning hair loss cases aren’t rising; instead, people’s acceptance of hair loss is decreasing and capability/desire to pay for treatments is increasing.

References

  1. Relevant Research, Inc. Chicago, IL, USA for International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (2013). International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery: 2013 Practice Census Results.
  2. Google (2015). Google Trends [Online], Available: http://www.google.com/trends/ [08 June 2015].
  3. Short, J. E. (2013). How Much Media? P10. Institute for Communication Technology Management.
  4. Nicehair.org (2014), 2014 Stress Related Hair Loss Study [Online] /stress-related-hair-loss-2/stress-related-hair-loss-study [08 June 105].
  5. Health and Safety Executive (2014). Stress-related and psychological disorders in Great Britain 2014 [Online] http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/ [08 June 2015].
  6. American Phsychological Association (2015). Is “Stressed Out” the New Normal? [Online] http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/impact.aspx?item=2 [08 June 2015].
  7. Johnson RJ, et al. (2007. Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007.
  8. Dr. Stephan Guyenet (2011). Fast Food, Weight Gain and Insulin Resistance [Online] http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/fast-food-weight-gain-and-insulin.html [08 June 2015].
  9. Trading Economics (2015). United States Disposable Personal Income 1959-2015 [Online] http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/disposable-personal-income [08 June 2015].