Life and Work with Excessive Sweating: We Surveyed 1,296 People with Hyperhidrosis

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The American Journal of Managed Care estimates that 15.3 million people in the U.S. suffer from excessive sweating. This makes hyperhidrosis more common than peanut allergies or psoriasis, yet it’s a condition that still attracts massive stigma and misunderstanding. 

At Duradry, we want to do our part in destigmatizing hyperhidrosis — and in raising awareness about the impact that excessive sweating has on the people who experience it. 

With this in mind, we surveyed 1,296 people who have hyperhidrosis to learn more about their emotional experiences. And in particular, we wanted to gather insights about how excessive sweating can influence people’s careers and their performance at work.

The Experience of Living and Working with Hyperhidrosis

At what age did you first experience hyperhidrosis?

At what age did you first experience hyperhidrosis? (Age 10-14 = 28.8%, Age 15-18 = 25.1%, Age 24-30 = 17.1%, Age 31-40 = 13.4%, Age 19-23 = 12.3%, Age 40+ = 3.3%)

According to most studies of the condition, the majority of people with hyperhidrosis first start sweating excessively when they’re in their teens — which is also borne out by our data. And some researchers have even emphasized the pre-teen experience, pointing to 25% who report onset at or before the age of 10. 

In our survey, 53.9% say they first experienced hyperhidrosis when they were between the ages of 10 and 18. 

The interesting thing about our survey is that 46.1% reported their excessive sweating started after they were aged 19. And seeing the 31-40 age group (13.4%) above the 19-23 age group (12.3%) is a surprise. However, it should be noted that we don’t account for the split between primary focal and secondary generalized hyperhidrosis. The latter is caused by factors such as medical conditions and medication side effects, whereas primary hyperhidrosis is the condition.

From the perspective of people’s experience, our data suggest two big challenges for sufferers: most people have to manage their excessive sweating constantly from an early age, through school and/or college — while many other people have to adapt unexpectedly at a later age. Each situation can be disruptive and destabilizing for life and work, which becomes clear when we look at the data from other questions in our survey.

How many times do you think about sweating every day?

How many times do you think about sweating every day? (All the time = 55.5%, 2-3 times per day = 17.8%, 4-5 times per day = 17.3%, 1-2 times per day = 9.3%)

One thing’s clear: the experience of living with excessive sweating is a heavy burden. According to our research, 55.5% of sufferers think about sweating “all the time”, and a further 35.1% think about sweating between 2-5 times daily. In total, this means 9/10 people with hyperhidrosis consciously think about their condition twice or more every day.

As we highlight in our interview with Lisa Pieretti, Executive Director of the International Hyperhidrosis Society, this can have serious and damaging effects on mental health. For example, a study published in 2014 found the rate of social anxiety disorder was 47.1% in patients with severe hyperhidrosis, compared to just 13.8% in patients without hyperhidrosis.

Do you worry about hyperhidrosis while you’re at work?

We also wanted to learn if and how hyperhodoris affects work, career, and job performance. 

Do you worry about hyperhidrosis while you're at work? (Yes, when I have to be in front of a group of people = 75.6%, Yes, when I have to give a presentation = 45.7%, Yes, when I have a meeting = 44%, No = 7%, Other = 12.1%)

Note: Respondents checked all situations that apply to them. 

More than three-quarters of respondents (75.6%) said they worry when they’re in front of a group, and a further 45.7% when they have to give a presentation. What’s notable to us is that a similar number (44%) reported worrying about their sweating when they have any sort of meeting, not even when they are presenting. Just 90 people (7%) out of our 1,296 respondents said they don’t worry about hyperhidrosis at work at all, meaning in total, 93% do worry

And when we dig into responses in the Other category, we find statements like “all the time, no matter what I’m doing” and “during every shift.” Other sufferers say “I worry in general,” “all day,” and “while shaking hands.” One respondent even said “I’ll sweat just thinking about it.”

Does hyperhidrosis affect your performance at work?

We asked respondents if they decided on a certain career path due to their hyperhidrosis, and fortunately, our research found that only 6% chose their job as a result of excessive sweating.

Of those who answered ‘yes’ in the survey, 20 people did this to be secluded from others (e.g. working from home), and 16 said it was the freedom to choose their own clothing that was appealing. Others gave physical activity as the reason — either their role minimizes activity to reduce sweating, or maximizes activity to justify their sweating to colleagues or clients.

At the same time, as you can see in the graph below, almost half of respondents (46.8%) say hyperhidrosis affects their performance at work. 

Does hyperhidrosis affect your performance at work? (No = 53.2%, Yes = 46.8%)

For those who answered yes, we asked an open-ended question about how it affects them. Here are just a few of the heart-wrenching responses we received:

  • “I used to be scared to even be seen at all”
  • “I’m unable to talk to people who intimidate me, for fear of embarrassing myself”
  • “I feel like I can’t work as hard or fast-paced, or my underarms will be soaked”
  • “I feel like I appear nervous and less professional”
  • “I often feel like I can’t confidently move and carry myself”
  • “I constantly worry about meeting new people, which is the essence of my job”
  • “People don’t want to work with me”
  • “It distracts me, and even dehydrates me”
  • “I can’t stop worrying about it, so it takes my mind off things I should focus on”
  • “I’m reluctant to approach coworkers for help if I’m having a heavy sweat day”

Final Thoughts: What Did We Learn?

Our research confirmed something we already expected: hyperhidrosis has a huge impact on people’s daily lives, and this means it will impact their work, too. While only a small percentage of people say it influenced their career choice, many more acknowledge the consequences it has on their jobs and how they interact with colleagues and customers. 

At Duradry, we’re committed to developing our range of sweat-blocking treatments to make life and work totally stress-free for hyperhidrosis sufferers. It’s our mission to help people ease the burden that is excessive sweating, and to help them enjoy complete dryness every single day

Methodology and Additional Statistics from the Research:

Our survey was sent on 7 January 2021, via Typeform, to Duradry customers and other people on our email list. We received 1,296 responses in total. 77.8% of respondents identified as female, 21.9% as male, and 0.3% prefer not to say. 80% said they have never tried any medical treatments before (e.g. oral meds, botox, miraDry, iontophoresis, and surgery).