Stress levels are high, and for some, that could mean less hair on your head.

Indeed, science supports the notion that significant emotional stress may be linked to at least one type of hair loss: telogen effluvium. Here is what you need to know about this common type of stress-induced hair loss.

The relation between stress and the hair cycle

There are approximately 100,000 hair follicles on the adult scalp (although, this number may vary based on hair color). Each hair follicle is constantly cycling between growth and rest. The majority of these hair follicles are in the growth phase (anagen) at any given time. When the hair follicle transitions to telogen, or the resting phase, the hair is shed. During an episode of telogen effluvium, a trigger causes a sudden, abnormal shift of hairs into the telogen phase all at once. One possible trigger for this sudden shift? Significant emotional stress. 

What qualifies as significant emotional stress? Think major, negative life events (i.e., loss of a loved one or divorce). While a single bad day at work shouldn’t meet this threshold, severe and prolonged stress secondary to the Covid-19 pandemic, for instance, could certainly qualify.

To test the relationship between substantial stress and hair loss, researchers artificially exposed mice to sound stress (a form of psychosocial stress) and found that it caused early termination of anagen, or the growth phase of the hair cycle. This study corroborated the notion that stress disrupts the normal cycling of the hair follicle and can lead to hair loss. 

Simply the misery loves company. It’s rare to find someone who actually enjoys a workday clogged with meetings — partly because we’re conditioned to hate them, according to organizational psychologist Joseph Allen, and partly because so many of them are just plain bad.


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