New study finds female-pattern hair loss common among older women

When we consider the fears around hair loss, we often picture men fretting about their hairlines. But hair loss in older adults isn’t a gendered concern. It impacts women, too.

According to a study published this month in Menopause, more than half of women over the age of 50 will experience it.

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The study, led by Dr. Sukanya Chaikittisilpa, recruited nearly 200 menopausal women ages 50 to 65 to be evaluated for hair thinning, or female-pattern hair loss. Researchers evaluated the women’s hormone levels, as well as hair density and diameter in the middle of the scalp. They also evaluated women’s self-esteem levels as part of the study.

They discovered that of the nearly 200 participants, just over 50% had some hair thinning, while low self-esteem was reported in 60% of women. Researchers also found that low self-esteem increased as hair loss became more severe.

Scientists and researchers can’t say with certainty the role menopause plays in hair loss, though this most recent study echoes the findings of others that suggest declining estrogen levels may play a part. There are several other factors that can contribute to hair loss in women in as well, including autoimmune diseases, issues with the thyroid, stress, mental health concerns and nutritional deficiencies.

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While culture and media have normalized images of hair loss in men, it’s a condition rarely talked about as a concern for women. But FPHL can have a real impact on a woman’s sense of self and quality of life. Its stigma can negatively impact a woman’s body image and confidence level, which can also impact her ability to enjoy social activities.

This led the study’s authors to conclude that “the prevalence of FPHL (is) high in postmenopausal women, raising the need for hair loss awareness in menopausal clinics. Early detection and proper treatment of FPHL may increase the quality of life in postmenopausal women.”

Treatment of hair loss in women can include use of minoxidil, anti-androgen drugs, iron supplements and hair transplants.

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