When the 13-year-old girl walked into the hospital in southern China around eight months ago, she was almost completely bald, and her eyebrows and eyelashes had gone.
“The patient came with a hat on and did not look very confident,” Shi Ge, a dermatologist at the Sixth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, told the Pear Video news portal.
The girl had done well in primary school but her grades dropped in middle school, Shi said.
Under parental pressure to do well, the girl pushed herself harder, but the stress resulted in severe hair loss.
With time and medical treatment, the teen’s hair grew back but her story left a lasting impression, raising awareness of the increasing number of young people in China seeking treatment for stress-induced hair loss, according to Chinese media reports.
Jia Lijun, a doctor at Shenzhen Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, told state-run Xinhua News Agency in May that aside from genetics, factors such as stress in work, study and life would result in endocrine imbalances which affected the cycle of hair growth.
And in January, a survey of 1,900 people by China Youth Daily found that 64.1 per cent of people aged between 18 and 35 said they had hair loss resulting from long and irregular working hours, insomnia, and mental stress.
Shi said that an increasing number of young people had come to her for treatment of hair loss in recent years, and those working in information technology and white-collar jobs were the two biggest groups.
“They usually could not sleep well at night due to high pressure or had an irregular diet because of frequent business trips,” Shi said.
A Weibo poll on Wednesday revealed that 68 per cent out of 47,000 respondents said they had had serious hair loss when they were in school. About 22 per cent said they noticed after starting their careers, while only 5 per cent said it happened after they entered middle age.
Research published in 2017 by AliHealth, the health and medical unit of the Alibaba Group, found that 36.1 per cent of Chinese people born in the 1990s had hair loss, compared to the 38.5 per cent born in the 1980s. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.
The teenager’s experience sparked a heated discussion on Weibo, with users recounting similar cases and some voicing their panic.
“My niece’s hair was gone while she was in high school and has not recovered, even after she graduated from university. This makes her feel more and more inferior,” one user said.
Another said: “I lost a small portion of my hair during the high school entrance exam, but that is already scary enough for a girl in her adolescence.”
“I had to quit my job and seek treatment,” said a third, who added that he also suffered from very serious hair loss a few months ago because of high pressure.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.