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Could Supporting Your Football Team Be Making You Bald?

Football is more than just a game to fans; it drives a passion that amplifies emotions and fuels fierce rivalries.

Considered one of the most competitive leagues in the world, the Premier League has no shortage of drama; from heart-pounding penalties to nerve-wracking clearances, the highs and lows are intertwined in the fabric of the sport. But could the stress of watching your favourite team play be causing your hair to fall out?

There has been a significant amount of research in recent years uncovering the links between stress and hair loss, leading to conditions such as alopecia areata and telogen effluvium. With fans often emotionally invested in their team’s performance, the intense pressure and stress experienced throughout high-stakes matches have been found to trigger similar psychological responses to real-life threats, including heightened cortisol levels.

With this in mind, Elithair has analysed data from 5 previous full Premier League seasons alongside the current 2023/24 season, to identify which teams are the most stressful to watch, and could be putting their fans at risk of losing their hair at a faster rate.

The most stressful teams were identified using a set of official data metrics, chosen as being factors which cause stress level changes when watching a game. The metrics used for the index are; penalties (scored and conceded), off-the-line clearances, woodwork strikes, big chances missed, and goals scored over 90 minutes.

The Most Stressful Teams to Watch in Recent Premier League History

Teams have been ranked from the most to least stressed. The fans with the highest stress levels are at the most risk of losing their hair. 

  1. Leeds United 
  •  Stress rating: 76/100
  •  Leeds United saw the highest percentage of goals scored after 90 minutes
  •  The stress score for Leeds United fans sits at 55% above the average 

Following promotion back to the Championship in 2010, a return to the Premier League in 2020 after a 16-year absence, and relegation in the 22/23 season, it’s safe to say that Leeds United fans have experienced their fair share of fluctuating fortunes. 

Our data has found that, of all the teams analysed, Leeds has scored the highest number of goals after the 90-minute mark with 8.8% of all goals scored after this timeframe, leading to more stressful viewing experiences for fans. A strong performance in the 2023/24 Championship season resulting in a promotion run has left Leeds fans’ nerves peaking for more positive reasons.

  1. Chelsea
  • Stress rating: 68/100
  • Chelsea hit the woodwork an average of 15 times each season
  • Stress score for Chelsea fans sits at 38% above the average 

“Carefree wherever we may be” may be the chorus ringing around Stamford Bridge on a Saturday afternoon but, whilst they are a powerhouse of English football, Chelsea consistently finds themselves in the thick of high-pressure situations. With an average of 4.9 penalties scored and conceded each season, the Blues often face critical moments from the spot. 

In recent months, Chelsea has come under fire for wasting over £1 billion on what fans deem “under-performing” players. Despite the huge investments made fans have seen Chelsea struggle on the pitch; although they did reach the Carabao Cup final, they faced a loss of 1-0 to Liverpool. 

Though recent games have showcased the team’s resilience, high-scoring draws with rivals Arsenal and Manchester City have left supporters on edge. According to our data, Chelsea saw one of the highest rates of big chances being missed, with 57 per year sliding by as their search for a striker cursed many a season from 2018 and beyond.

Alongside the current backdrop of managerial changes and transfer speculations, Chelsea fans endure a rollercoaster of emotions, making them one of the most stressful teams to watch in the league. Carefree they may be, but with all that stress for Chelsea fans, hair-free may follow.

  1. Norwich City
  • Stress rating: 68/100
  • Norwich City have the highest number of off-the-line clearances, averaging 7 each season
  • The stress score for Norwich City fans sits at 38% above the average 

Norwich City has been the classic yo-yo for many years in the Premier League, with Temu Pukki firing the team up to the Premier League in 2018 to end a three-year absence. However, relegation swiftly followed before they were promoted again as Championship winners in 2021. A record-setting sixth relegation ended their cycle of Premier League success and failure in 2022. 

Despite this, the fans at Carrow Road have stood by their team through all the changes, their spirit embodied in Delia Smith’s “Let’s Be Having You”.

Of the teams analysed, Norwich saw one of the highest results for penalties scored and conceded at an average of 6 each season; second only to Leicester City.

  1. Manchester United
  • Stress rating: 65.6/100
  • Manchester United see an average of 53 big chances missed – 26% higher than the league average
  • The stress score for Manchester United fans sits at 32% above the average 

The historical success of The Red Devils sets a high bar, with legacy pressures feeding into the stress fans experience. The team have a known history of dominance, and United’s recent triumph over Liverpool to secure a spot in the FA Cup semi-finals did provide a momentary boost in morale for fans; while their uncanny ability to score dramatic late goals only adds to the tension.

However, turbulent management decisions alongside an average of 53 big chances missed each season means that supporting this team can be a somewhat unpredictable experience, leaving fans feeling on edge when it comes to match day. 

The results speak for themselves; amidst sky-high expectations, Manchester United has earned a reputation as one of the most stress-inducing teams in the league.

  1. Arsenal
  • Stress rating: 64.8/100
  • Arsenal hit the woodwork less frequently than Tottenham, on average
  • The stress score for Arsenal fans sits at 30% above the average 

Despite a long dry spell without Premier League triumphs, since the ‘the invincibles’ campaign in the 03-04 season, the Gunners have shown themselves to be serious contenders against Manchester City for the title in recent seasons. 

This resurgence has younger fans in uncharted territory, experiencing the pressure of being in the title race with the weight of recent history to overcome.

Our study has found that Arsenal has missed an average of 41.5 big chances each season, spanning the last 5 years. In addition, the team ranks among the highest for scoring late goals with almost 8% of total goals scored after 90 minutes. With each late goal, penalty earned, and near miss, the tension only mounts for supporters.

Key rivalries: how do the statistics compare?

United Fans are 25% More Stressed than City Fans

A famously deep-rooted divide, the rivalry between Manchester City and Manchester United goes far beyond the proximity of their stadiums. Always a significant fixture in the football calendar, these matches are tension-filled and high-pressure due to the local tension between teams.

According to the results Manchester United are the more stressful team to support, ranking 4th in the study with a higher average of penalties per season, and almost double the amount of goals scored after 90 minutes. 

By comparison, Manchester City, who ranked 9th in the study, saw more occasions of hitting the woodwork and big chances missed during games. Overall, the data reveals that Manchester United fans are 25% more stressed than City fans. 

Gunners’ Stress Levels are 23% Higher Than Spurs Fans

The Emirates may be seeing a league challenge in 2024 but it is also potentially causing a follicle challenge for a number of its fans, with their stress level far higher than North London rivals Tottenham. Spurs rank in 10th for stress, though they do see the woodwork rattled more than the Gunners. 

Title Race: 2023/24 Premier League Season

As we approach the end of the 2023/24 Premier League season, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City fans will find themselves navigating various stress levels for a variety of reasons. 

While Arsenal supporters may feel tense due to their team’s propensity to hit the woodwork, with an average of 14 times each season. The fact that 7.9% of total goals on average are scored after the 90-minute mark is sure to add a layer of anxiety as the end of the league approaches.

On the other hand, Liverpool fans will be grappling with nerves as the statistics show they miss an average of 63 big chances each season. Plus, a relatively low percentage of goals scored after 90 minutes (accounting for just 5% of total goals) could leave fans on the edge of their seats for late-game outcomes.

Meanwhile, while Manchester City are known for creating big chances for themselves, they do miss an average of 66 per league season; 57% higher than the average across the board. Scoring just 3% of total goals after 90 minutes, fans could be feeling apprehensive about the team’s ability to navigate late-game situations to work in their favour. 

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Data collected from Premier League and Transfermarkt.