For many years, I have observed that men seemed to be losing their scalp hair earlier than in past generations, and also in far greater numbers. I have also seen this phenomenon in women in more recent years, although the generalized thinning type of hair loss typical in women is sometimes harder to notice from a distance with the naked eye. My initial observation regarding men was based on three key factors:
- Seeing at least half the men in my father’s and grandfather’s generations still having excellent hair in old age.
- Seeing very old group photos of people from 100 or more years ago from around the world having very few bald people in them. Sometimes none.
- Noticing NBA basketball players going bald at much more rapid rates than in the past. Because fully shaved heads in the NBA have become very popular over the past three decades and Afro hairstyles have almost gone extinct, this point is hard to prove and I could be wrong. However, a number of basketball players have discussed their hair loss openly in recent years after shaving it all off or trying to hide it a la Lebron James.
The second point above is all the more impressive when considering the fact that no-one in those 100 plus year old photos would have had a hair transplant at that time. Moreover, hairpieces would have been far more obvious in that era and easily noticeable. In today’s group photos, it is quite likely that at least one person in the group has a had a hair transplant, or is using a hairpiece, or is using a hair loss concealer. For example, in recent US politics, Donald Trump and Joe Biden come to mind as men in the upper echelons of power having at least some type of surgery to give them new hair up front. Both of them when appearing in group photos are deceiving us.
My above three original observations were further solidified by two further developments in the past decade:
- Around 10 years ago, my older female hairdresser told me that she was seeing more and more male high school children going bald. She said it was quite shocking. She did not mention younger females having thinner hair at a greater rate than in the past, but I think that is also happening.
- In more recent years, I have read a number of articles discussing how Japanese men were going bald at much greater rates than in the past. In fact, it seems like balding in your 20s and early youth was an exceedingly rare phenomenon in Japan prior to World War II. A famous scientist by the name of Dr. Masumi Inaba published a book in 1985 in which he concluded that after World War II, Japanese men were going bald at a much more rapid pace due to a westernized high animal fat diet. Even Japanese men who moved to the western world started balding more rapidly according to Dr. Inaba. Some people think bad diets are causing excess inflammation in human bodies along with insulin resistance, both of which could be adversely impacting hair.
While researching this post, I also found a 1990 paper from the Netherlands that immigrant communities were experiencing higher rates of hair loss than in their home countries.
Besides the dietary theories of why premature balding and androgenetic alopecia rates are increasing at younger ages, another theory that has also found some support is that low levels of Vitamin D from limited sunshine availability in the western world has led to Caucasians having much higher rates of balding in comparison to other races. This has now been further exacerbated by the modern heavily indoor-based lifestyle across the world.
Yet other hypotheses have focused on changing hormone levels in humans due to various chemicals in our environment, food and water. Increasing stress levels in modern societies have also been used to explain higher rates of hair loss. None of these theories are set in stone of course, and it has not even been conclusively proven that hair loss rates are definitely higher in the current generation than in past generations.
Genetic theories on hair loss have focused on the fact that balding can be passed on from either side of the family, and it does not require both male grandparents to be bald for a male grandchild to also be bald. i.e., balding is a dominant trait and therefore likely to increase in each generation. However, the genetics of male pattern hair loss are not so clear cut according to this article. On many online hair loss forums, people have joked in the past that the final step in human evolution is when everyone (or at least all men) look like in the above photo. So it makes sense that each generation is balder than the prior one.
Chinese and Indians Going Bald Younger
The reason for my writing this article is due to yesterday’s news from the South China Morning Post that a shocking 60 percent of university students in China were losing their hair according to one survey with 4,000 participants. Per Dr. Fu Lanqin:
“My feeling is that this generation is losing its hair sooner than previous generations.”
China is the world’s most populous nation, and historically, Asians lose hair at much lower rates than Caucasians. However, a 60 percent hair loss figure for young university students in China seems much higher than what we would see today in the western world’s colleges.
India is the world’s second most populous country, and in recent years, a number of articles from that nation’s newspapers have mentioned increasing hair loss in younger people. One of the more interesting ones found that young Indian men from the IT sector were especially prone to balding.
It seems like whoever finally comes out with a hair loss cure will have an unlimited supply of young clients.