The relationship between physical activity levels and symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress in individuals with alopecia Areata

BMC Psychol. 2019 Jul 23;7(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s40359-019-0324-x.


Background: Alopecia Areata (AA) is an autoimmune condition that is characterised by non-scarring hair loss. Its aesthetic repercussions can lead to profound changes in psychological well-being. Although physical activity (PA) has been associated with better mental health outcomes in diverse populations, the association in individuals with AA has not been established. The aim of this study was to examine the associations between PA and mental health outcomes in individuals with AA to inform intervention strategies for this specific population.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted among individuals who were diagnosed with AA. A total of 83 respondents aged (40.95 ± 13.24 years) completed a self-report questionnaire consisting of International Physical Activity Questionnaire-Short Form (IPAQ-SF) and the Depression and Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21). Three-way contingency Chi-square analyses were used to determine the associations between PA, mental health outcomes and participants with hair loss of more than 50% on the scalp.

Results: 81.9% of the participants did not meet PA guidelines. Participants with hair loss of more than 50% on the scalp, and who did not meet PA guidelines, were significantly more likely to experience symptoms of severe depression (p = .003), moderate anxiety (p = .04) and mild stress (p = .003) than those who met guidelines CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that increased PA participation in AA individuals with severe hair loss is associated with improved mental health status. Intervention efforts for this specific population should consider barriers and enablers to PA participation as they face challenges that differ from the general population.

Keywords: Alopecia areata; Anxiety; Depression; Physical activity; Stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Alopecia Areata / psychology*
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Concept*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires