Hairstylists may have a unique opportunity to help steer their elderly clients to needed health services, according to a small, exploratory study.
More than 80 percent of 40 Columbus-area stylists surveyed said that older clients often or always shared their problems during appointments.
"Hair stylists are in a great position to notice when their older clients are starting to suffer from depression, dementia, or self-neglect," said Keith Anderson, co-author of the study and assistant professor of social work at Ohio State University.
"While not expecting too much beyond the scope of their jobs, we may be able to help stylists direct elderly people in trouble to community services."
Anderson conducted the study with Andrea Cimbal and Jeffrey Maile, graduate students in social work at Ohio State. Their results appear in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Gerontology.
Anderson said he decided to do the study after reading sometimes-joking references in the popular press to "salon therapy," in which clients discussed their relationship, family and health problems to their stylists, who act as sympathetic ears and sometimes as pseudo-therapists.
"I wondered if stylists really did have these close relationships with their clients," Anderson said.