Objectives This study aimed to examine levels of social anxiety, anxiety and depression reported by people with alopecia as a result of a dermatological condition and associations with wig use. The study also sought to report on experiences of wearing wigs in social situations and the relationship with social confidence.
Design A cross-sectional survey was sent by email to the Alopecia UK charity mailing list and advertised on social media.
Participants Inclusion criteria were a diagnosis of alopecia, aged 13 or above and sufficient English to complete the survey. Exclusion criteria included experiencing hair loss as a result of chemotherapy treatment or psychological disorder. Participants (n=338) were predominantly female (97.3%), Caucasian (93.5%) and aged between 35 and 54 years (49.4%) with a diagnosis of alopecia areata (82.6%).
Main outcome measures The Social Phobia Inventory measured symptoms of social anxiety, and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale was used to measure symptoms of anxiety and depression. Survey questions were designed to measure the use of wigs. Open-ended questions enabled participants to comment on their experiences of wearing wigs.
Results Clinically significant levels of social anxiety (47.5%), anxiety (35.5%) and depression (29%) were reported. Participants who reported worries about not wearing a wig reported significantly higher levels of depression: t(103)=3.40, p≤0.001; anxiety: t(109)=4.80, p≤0.001; and social anxiety: t(294)=3.89, p≤0.001. Wearing wigs was reported as increasing social confidence; however, the concealment it afforded was also reported as both reducing fear of negative evaluation and maintaining anxiety.
Discussion Overall, 46% of participants reported that wearing a wig had a positive impact on their everyday life with negative experiences related to fears of the wig being noticed. Psychological interventions alongside wig provision would be beneficial for people living with alopecia.
- wig provision
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Contributors AT and KM developed the protocol for this study. All authors have contributed to the preparation of this manuscript. KM carried out data analysis for quantitative data, and KM and CW analysed qualitative data to ensure reliability of coding. All data were checked by AT.
Funding This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant number ES/J00215/1).
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent This paper does not contain personally identifiable information regarding any participant.
Ethics approval University of Sheffield Psychology Department Ethics Committee.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement The protocol and data files are available from the corresponding author on request.