Stress and Hair Loss: A closer look at the 5 D's of Stress

Does stress cause hair loss?

A common question I'm asked is whether stress can actually cause hair loss. The answer is maybe. Typical day to day stress probably is not a big culprit. 

However,  stresses that are high enough in magnitude can sometimes trigger increased hair shedding, especially stresses that fall into categories of what I call the “5 D’s” :


1. death of a loved one

2. divorce and relationship problems

3. debt and financial problems

4. new diagnosis for the patient or a loved one

5. dismissal from a job.


The Homes and Rahe Scale

The 5 D’s based on research from the late 1960s when two psychiatrists Dr Holmes and Dr Rahe conducted research into how stress and illness are linked. Based on their studies, they created the Holmes and Rahe scale. The scale ranks a variety of life events based on the stress they cause. As you guessed, the 5Ds are right at the top.  Death of a spouse was given a rating of 100, death of a close family member 63, divorce a rating of 73, a diagnosis of illness at 53, dismissal from work at 47 and financial issues (mid 20s). 

When patients mention concerns about recent hair loss it is important to conduct a very thorough history which sometimes includes an assessment of stresses of the patient.


Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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