Where it comes to hair loss and careers, the real basis of concern is ageism. It’s a problem that’s been recognized since at least the 1960s, when the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was enacted. This law protects employees and job applicants over the age of 40 from discrimination in hiring, promotion, discharge, and worker’s compensation. Employers cannot state an age preference in advertising job openings, for example.
But laws and human behaviors are not always in sync. Jobs are often advertised with the employer “seeking high energy” applicants, which very often is unintentional code for “be young.” And even for those who apply, showing up for an interview with a crop of grey hair, or no hair at all, very often means that’s a first and last interview.
So it isn’t just those wanting to appear younger, or who want to appear more attractive to potential mates that sends them into hair loss treatment clinics seeking out hair loss solutions like laser hair loss therapy or hair transplant surgery. Both men and women want to look young, confident and dynamic.
AARP, the aging advocacy organization, studied this and found that 61 percent of working people over the age of 45 have experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Another workplace-focused organization, Fairygodboss, found that 37 percent of survey respondents experienced workplace ageism before the age of 45, generally at a mid-level position in their careers.
How much of this is related to hair? Fast Company, the hip business periodical, identified that men and women color their hair as a means of looking younger – unsurprisingly, women 1.8 times more than men. But there are men who do color their hair but rarely acknowledge it. If hair color matters, it seems likely that hair loss would as well.
Numerous studies bear this out. In his well-researched series of books, Thomas Cash (professor emeritus of psychology at Old Dominion University) cites one study of attitudes regarding photos of men with and without hair. The study participants rated each photo for self-assertiveness, social attractiveness, intelligence, life-success, personal likeability, physical attractiveness, and perceived age. In addition to scores that always favored the men with hair, the balding men were, on average, perceived to be three years and nine months older than the subjects’ actual age.
This might affect people more in some careers than others. The Ladders, an online advice, news, and job search service for positions that pay $100,000 or more per year, found the following career categories where ageism is most prevalent. They are:
Getting back to hair loss and careers, The Ladders also published a story about a peer reviewed study conducted in South Korea (Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine). Over four years’ time, 13,391 men were instructed to not use alopecia medication and to report the number of hours they worked weekly. Their findings: the hardest working men had the most hair loss: “unintentional development of alopecia is another potential health consequence of long working hours in Korean male workers.”
So, putting in long hours at work is associated with more hair loss. Seems like a recipe for frustrated careers – and bald heads.