The Stress of Divorce, Writ on Women's Heads
Sep 27, 2011 | from Time
In men, baldness is due mostly to an unlucky roll of the genetic dice. But in women, hair loss appears to be linked much more strongly to lifestyle factors like stress — from divorce or the death of a spouse, for example — according to preliminary findings from two studies.
For the studies, Dr. Bahman Guyuron, a plastic surgeon at Case Western Reserve University, and his colleagues looked at 66 male and 84 female identical twin pairs. Since twins are genetically identical — and programmed to have identical hairlines — the researchers knew that any differences could be attributed to environmental factors.
"What is amazing is how many of these twins have exactly the same behaviors, the same things matching except one or two factors that possibly may contribute to these differences," Guyuron told WebMD.
For the study, Guyuron's team used questionnaires to ask about the siblings' lifestyles and habits. The researchers also took pictures of the participants' scalps, which were assessed by experts. The results of the studies must be considered preliminary, since they haven't yet been peer-reviewed. They will be presented at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons' annual meeting in Denver this week.
The good news is that some of the lifestyle factors that may contribute to hair loss can be controlled. "In the end, I am a big proponent of the idea that it's how you handle the stress that can make a difference," Dr. Doris Day, an attending physician in dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told HealthDay. "The mind-and-body connection is incredibly powerful. It helps to try and keep perspective, put the big things that happen in life, the major milestones, in their place and keep an open mind."