The Medical and Psychosocial Associations of Alopecia: Recognizing Hair Loss as More Than a Cosmetic Concern

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2019 Apr;20(2):195-200. doi: 10.1007/s40257-018-0405-2.


Alopecia encompasses a broad range of hair loss disorders, generally categorized into scarring and non-scarring forms. Depending on the specific pathogenesis of hair loss and geographic location, a number of psychiatric and medical comorbidities, including but not limited to thyroid disease, lupus erythematosus, diabetes mellitus, atopic dermatitis, sinusitis, coronary artery disease, anxiety, depression, and suicidality, have been identified in association with alopecia. In addition to the numerous associated comorbid conditions, patients with alopecia report decreased quality-of-life measures across symptomatic, functional, and global domains. While alopecia can affect patients of all ages, genders, and ethnicities, hair loss may more significantly impact women as hair represents an essential element of femininity, fertility, and female attractiveness in society. Individuals of lower socioeconomic status may also face health disparities in the context of alopecia as a majority of hair loss treatments are considered cosmetic in nature and accordingly are not covered by third-party insurance providers. Although traditionally thought of as a merely aesthetic concern, alopecia encompasses a significant burden of disease with well-defined comorbid associations and genuine psychosocial implications, and thus should be assessed and managed within a proper medical paradigm.

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia / pathology*
  • Alopecia / psychology
  • Alopecia / therapy
  • Cicatrix / etiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life*
  • Socioeconomic Factors