Psychological stress can lead to skin problems, study says

It is a well-established fact that psychological stress has negative effects to one’s skin and a new study backs this up, suggesting that the psychological stress experienced by undergraduate students worsens their skin problems.


The study, which is published in Acta Dermato-Venereologica, revealed that students who suffers from high stress levels were also more frequent to experience skin problems such as pruritus or itchy skin, alopecia or hair loss, oily, waxy or flaky patches on the scalp, hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating, scaly skin, onychophagia or nail biting, itchy rash on hands and trichotillomania or hair pulling disorder.

Nonetheless, the researchers also discovered that there is no substantial association between psychological stress and pimples among college students.

According to Medical News Today (MNT), in order to arrive at this conclusion, the researchers from Temple University School of Medicine conducted a cross-sectional study among 5,000 students from Temple University who were asked to complete a web-based questionnaire about their psychological stress and the skin problems they experience.

The final sample size of the study is 422 students who were then divided into three categories which includes Low Stress, Moderate Stress and High Stress. From the remaining sample population, 109 were designated to Low Stress, 201 in Moderate Stress and 112 in High Stress.

According to the researchers, the purpose of their study was to determine the relationship of skin symptoms and stress levels in a “large randomly selected sample of undergraduate students.”

The researchers added that, although a “causal relationship” between the two remains to be proven, their study shows that increased psychological stress are associated with the aforementioned skin problems.

However, the researchers cited that there are limitations in their study such as the low response rates which might have resulted to an over-representation of persons with high stress levels and/or skin complains as well as the lack of physical assessment which limits the researchers to ascertain the exact clinical diagnoses of the participants’ skin complaints.

Nonetheless, the researchers believe their study is useful especially for dermatologists who are treating the skin complaints of students as well as people of the same age bracket.

“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,” Dr. Gil Yosopovitch, chair of the Department of Dermatology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and the corresponding author of the study, said.