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Depression does not cause hair loss, and hair loss does not cause depression - as far as we know.
There are more than 30 different medical conditions that contribute to hair loss in women. Hormones, diet, childbirth, illness, birth control pills, poor diet, stress - all have been found to contribute to thinning of hair in women.
Most male baldness is inherited, although some might be the result of certain medications (including some anti-depressants), poor health or severe stressors, such as surgery or a serious accident.
A 2012 research study investigated adult female outpatients of a public dermatology clinic with complaints of hair loss and evaluated them for symptoms of depression. Of the 157 women interviewed for the study, 54% reported hair loss and 29% reported two or more key symptoms of depression. After considering other variables, including family history of alopecia and seborrheic dermatitis, the study found that complaints of hair loss were associated with a greater prevalence of symptoms of depression within the population studied.
For men, there appears to be a relationship between the use of Propecia (a topical drug used to stimulate hair growth) and depression that persists, even after the drug use is stopped. A 2011 study conducted by George Washington University looked at sexual dysfunction, a known side effect of Propecia, which may continue for years after use of the drug is stopped.
While conducting the study, researchers became aware of other complaints from patients, including depression and memory problems, and other cognitive issues. A full 75% of survey subjects reported having some symptoms of depression, with 36% of subjects reporting severe depression and 44% of the overall group reporting having suicidal thoughts.
The effect of hair loss on one's appearance may be enough, by itself, to trigger depression in some people. Propecia restores hair growth in many individuals, which would seem to counter any depression over the loss of hair. The study's finding of such high levels of depression continuing after the regrowth of hair was unexpected.
For both men and women the loss of hair is stressful. In a world where many of us are judged by appearance, bald or thinning hair may be part of that judgment, and we may be found wanting.
Researchers have not yet found a physical connection between hair loss and depression. There is no known common metabolic function or genetic link as of now. The stress of losing one's hair, or the stress that is the cause of hair loss, might be a cause of depressive symptoms men and women report in the above studies. Research will continue into all of these areas, because they are important to the mental well-being of those affected.
In the meantime, look around. As this society ages, we will see more members of our individual cohorts in the same situation, with balding or thinning hair. If we believe there is strength in numbers, we can use that strength and not allow ourselves to be depressed by this.
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