A new study found that Blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be affected by alopecia areata than Whites. The study also found that, due to a lack of access to healthcare, people from lower education and income groups are less likely to be diagnosed with alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune condition causing patchy hair loss, total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis (AT)), or total body hair loss (alopecia universalis (AU)). In addition to being a physical ailment, AA causes significant psychological distress.
Several new studies suggest that the condition disproportionately affects specific racial groups. This study, published in the Archives of Dermatological Research, explored AA in underrepresented groups, including racial minorities, people from low economic and educational backgrounds, and people with different sexual orientation/gender identities (LGBTQIA+).
The Study Identified Significant Disparities Regarding AA
This was a cross-sectional study. Researchers used data from All of Us (AoU), an ongoing research program. This program, which enrolls volunteers older than 18 years of age, prioritizes recruiting underrepresented groups, like those from ethnic minorities, low-income, or LGBTQIA+.
For the AA study, researchers used AoU participants’ electronic health records (EHRs) and survey results to estimate AA prevalence. The data from version 5 of the AoU was used and included 329,038 individuals, out of whom 251,597 had EHR data. Based on this data, researchers could identify 752 individuals diagnosed with AA, bringing AA prevalence to 0.30%. This is slightly higher than other US studies, which suggest AA prevalence at 0.1 to 0.2%.
Additionally, the study found that Blacks and Hispanics had much higher odds of developing AA compared to Whites. Blacks, on average, were 1.72 times more likely to be affected by AA, and Hispanics 2.13 times. Sexual preferences did not have much influence on the odds of developing AA. Interestingly, the study found that those with less than a high school degree were 20% less likely to be diagnosed with AA. Those with household incomes below $35,000 were 33% less likely to develop AA, and people with no health insurance had a 65% lower risk of being diagnosed with AA.
The Bottom Line
The higher prevalence of AA in the study can be explained by the fact that the AoU database had a higher number of people from ethnic minorities who are more likely to develop AA. Moreover, the study confirms that people of color (Blacks and Hispanics) are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with AA. However, sexual preferences did not contribute to AA risk. Additionally, the study found a much lower probability of AA in those from lower socio-economic status, education, and those without insurance, which points to a lack of access to healthcare and significant disparities, as people from lower income levels and those without insurance are less likely to have access to dermatological care. Further studies are needed to learn more about the causes of these health disparities.
Moseley, I., George, E. A., Tran, M., Lee, H., Qureshi, A. A., & Cho, E. (2023). Alopecia areata in underrepresented groups: preliminary analysis of the all of us research program. Archives of Dermatological Research, 315(6), 1631–1637. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00403-023-02548-y