New research confirms that mental stress is associated with a variety of skin issues in college students.
In the study, scientists at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM) at Temple University (LKSOM) and Temple University sought to confirm that heightened levels of psychological stress are associated with skin complaints.
To do this they studied a large, randomly selected sample of undergraduate students. Study results appear in the international, peer-reviewed journal Acta Dermato-Venereologica.
“Previous studies have demonstrated an association between stress and skin symptoms, but those studies relied on small patient samples, did not use standardized tools, are anecdotal in nature, or focused their analyses on a single skin disease,” said Gil Yosipovitch, M.D., chair of the Department of Dermatology at LKSOM and corresponding author of the study.
Researchers performed a questionnaire-based, cross-sectional study at Temple University during the 2014 fall semester. Five thousand undergraduate students were invited to participate in a web-based survey in which they reported their perceived psychological stress and any skin complaints. Four hundred twenty-two students were included in the final sample size.
Respondents were divided into groupings labeled as low stress, moderate stress, and high stress.
Compared to low stress subjects, the high stress group suffered significantly more often from pruritus (itchy skin); alopecia (hair loss); oily, waxy, or flaky patches on the scalp; hyperhidrosis (troublesome sweating); scaly skin; onychophagia (nail biting); itchy rash on hands; and trichotillomania (hair pulling).
Surprisingly, there was no association between perceived psychological stress levels and the presence of pimples, dry/sore rash, warts, and other rashes on the face.
Despite study limitations (e.g., low response rate, absence of physical assessment of respondents), Yosipovitch says the results are important for dermatologists who treat undergraduate-aged patients.
“Our findings highlight the need for health care/dermatology providers to ask these patients about their perceived levels of psychological stress. Disease flare or exacerbation while on treatment in the setting of increased stress may not necessarily reflect treatment failure.”
Yosipovitch adds, “These findings further suggest that non-pharmacologic therapeutic interventions should be considered for patients presenting with both skin conditions and heightened levels of psychological stress.”
Source: Temple University/EurekAlert