The link between hair loss, low income and poverty

General Hair Loss

There is growing evidence to suggest that hair loss can be aggravated by a low income situation, and experienced more readily by those living in poverty. Here we examine the reasons why.

A short time ago I summarised the primary medical reasons that could cause a person to lose their hair. As I was collating the list of blog posts archived on this site to create the article list, I couldn’t help but notice how many of the conditions were directly linked to poverty.


Here in the UK it seems that barely a day goes by without some sort of benefits-bashing programme on television (for our American readers, “benefits” here are what you would refer to as Welfare in the United States). We’ve had the now-infamous Benefits Street followed by a raft of other programmes like Skint, How To Get A Council House, and On Benefits And Proud. Despite the recent interest in home-grown poverty, with the exception of drug abuse and alcoholism, none of these programmes discuss the health implications of a life on the dole. Let’s look at what we do know……

Prevalence of smoking

According to the Guardian smoking is “inextricably linked to poverty”. Director of the mapping project Deborah Arnott, a study that proved a correlation between areas that are classed as deprived and where people are most likely to smoke, says the study “shows the iron chain that links smoking and deprivation. Smoking is the biggest killer in England, and it kills more people in poorer communities than in richer ones. This project shows once again why smoking must be top of the list of concerns for everyone who cares about tackling poverty and social exclusion.”

So we know smoking and poverty go hand in hand. We also know that smoking causes hair loss.

Likelihood of a poor diet

Those living in extreme financial hardship are much more likely to suffer an inadequate diet. Food poverty and the use of food banks is on the increase, and there have even been suggestions that ricketts may return after many years of virtual extinction, as a result of malnutrition in extreme cases. There is also more likely to be a lack of general nutritional education among the poorest in society, hence a slightly counter-intuitive rise in obesity in poorer children.

We already know that a poor diet can lead to hair loss, as can deficiencies in specific nutrients such as iron, protein and other minerals. To make matters worse, those battling obesity using gastric bypass surgery could also suffer hair loss as a consequence of the procedure.

Stress-related issues

By no means is stress exclusively a poverty-related issue. We all suffer with stress to a certain extent. However, low income households are more prone to certain triggers that more well-off families may not be automatically associated with. Examples could include financial hardship, housing worries and pressures placed on relationships due to all of the above.

Stress is a known factor in the loss of hair, and a primary cause of telogen effluvium.

Although a confirmed and direct link between poverty and hair loss would require further research and study, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that many of the key contributors to premature hair loss are poverty-related, or at least more likely to factor in a person living in a low income situation. We only hope the rise in British poverty in recent years doesn’t lead more people to seek out cheap solutions to their hair loss, as they are only likely to make the situation worse.


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