From the Journals

Alopecia areata linked to mental health disorders



Alopecia areata is associated with greater frequency of mental health disorders, according to a new analysis of U.S. hospitalizations.

Specifically, the analysis found, alopecia areata patients are at risk for any mental health disorder, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, dementia, mood disorders, personality disorders, and suicide or intentionally self-inflicted injury. The report was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The researchers worked with 87,053,155 adult and child records from the 2002-2012 National Inpatient Sample, which represents 20% of U.S. hospitalizations. They identified inpatients with alopecia areata based on the ICD-9-CM code and compared them to all patients without the condition.

Overall, 5,605 patients had alopecia areata, which was the secondary diagnosis more than 99% of the time. Compared with inpatients without alopecia areata, those with the disorder were more likely to be younger (42.2 vs. 47.9 years; P less than .0001), female (61.7% vs. 58.6%; P = .0297), and uninsured (8.1% vs. 5.5%; P less than .0001). In addition, inpatients with alopecia areata had a greater frequency of mental health disorders (32.8% vs. 20.0%; P less than .0001) and were more likely to have a primary mental health diagnosis (5.5% vs. 2.2%; P less than .0001), reported Vivek Singam of Northwestern University, Chicago, and his associates.

Among 15 mental health or classes of disorders examined, alopecia areata patients were at greater risk in 13 of them. The only exceptions were delirium/dementia/amnestic/cognitive disorders and disorders diagnosed in infancy, childhood, or adolescence.

Alopecia areata patients with a mental health disorder had a mean hospital stay of 6.0 days (95% confidence interval, 5.4.-6.6) and hospitalization cost of $11,907 (95% CI, $10,312-$13,503).

Previous studies had shown similar relationships. However, previous studies showed lower risk of alopecia areata and schizophrenia and no increased risk of ADHD, compared with the current study’s findings. The authors could offer no explanation for those differences.

The strengths of the current analysis include its use of a large-scale, nationally representative cohort and its large sample size, as well its inclusion of a broad range of mental health disorders. Because of its cross-sectional design, the study could not establish the temporal relationship between alopecia areata and mental health disorders.

It is unclear whether psychosocial stress might cause or exacerbate alopecia areata, or whether alopecia areata can lead to or worsen mental health disorders.

The researchers called for additional studies to understand this relationship and potential mechanisms.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Dermatology Foundation funded the study. The researchers declared having no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Singam V et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2018 Aug 6. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2018.07.044.