Dermatitis Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

About 30% of Americans will experience contact dermatitis, or eczema, at some point in their lives. "Dermatitis" is an umbrella term for many conditions causing skin inflammation. Inflamed skin can appear dry, itchy, red, hot, or otherwise irritated skin. Scratching only increases irritation to the area and can cause damage and skin injury. 

There are many reasons why someone may develop dermatitis. Find out how common dermatitis is, what causes dermatitis, who is most likely to develop dermatitis, and when to see a healthcare provider. 

Dermatitis on the back of the knee

naruecha jenthaisong / Getty Images

Dermatitis Overview

There are several reasons why someone may develop skin irritation or chronic skin inflammation. 

Contact irritant dermatitis ocurs when something in the environment creates skin irritation such as a solvent, soap, or other irritating substance. Contact allergic dermatitis happens after exposure to an allergen (a substance that triggers an allergic reaction).

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is chronic skin inflammation known as eczema. AD and seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff are the two other more common types of dermatitis. About 30% of Americans will experience contact dermatitis, or eczema, at some point in their lives, mostly children and adolescents.

In any case, dermatitis involves symptoms that can interfere with quality sleep and everyday life. These include excessively dry, itchy, and painful skin rashes.

How Common Is Dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis is very common, with 1 in 10 adults having some form of it. It is most prevalent in children. About 80% of children will outgrow this condition as they become adults.

Risk Factors

Your odds of developing dermatitis do vary depending on a few important factors. If you have a job where you are in daily contact with solvents, soaps, hand sanitizers, or harsh chemicals such as in professions like hairstyling and being a mechanic, you’re at increased risk for irritant contact dermatitis.

Dermatitis by Ethnicity

One 2018 research review demonstrates that although studies have focused on White populations and dermatitis, there is actually a higher prevalence of dermatitis, or it occurs more frequently, in Asian and Black populations.

Dermatitis by Age and Gender

Anyone can develop skin irritation, including babies. When babies develop dermatitis, it may be called diaper rashes or diaper dermatitis and cradle crap.

Around half of all children develop diaper dermatitis.

Dermatitis affects male and female children at about the same rate but is most common in adult women.

People of older age are more likely to develop dry skin due to thinning of skin and reduction in its ability to hold moisture.

Causes and Risk Factors of Dermatitis

Causes of dermatitis can be complex and include a combination of factors such as:

  • Immune system misfire or overreaction 
  • Genetic predisposition to developing dermatitis
  • Environmental changes or additives like soap, perfume, and detergent that change the immune system’s reaction
  • Direct exposure to a skin irritant 
  • Having had hay fever or asthma in the past

Over 15,000 different substances can cause an allergic skin reaction resulting in dermatitis.

Dermatitis and Mortality

Skin irritation can lead to other health complications, including infection and respiratory illness that lead to death. One large-scale study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and funded by the Wellcome Trust, compared mortality rates in over 500,000 adults with atopic eczema and with more than 2.5 million without eczema. 

People with severe eczema were at a 62% higher risk of dying compared to individuals without atopic eczema. The study authors explain the results are due to several causes like infections, lung problems, and kidney or bladder disorders.

Evidence for “all-cause mortality” in people with nonsevere, non-atopic dermatitis is limited.

Screening and Early Detection

Everyone experiences a little skin irritation every now and again. But if your skin rash or dry spots are keeping you up at night or preventing you from your daily activities, consider speaking with a healthcare provider. They may offer treatment based on your symptoms or discuss the benefits of seeing a dermatologist for dermatitis

When to See a Healthcare Provider

See a healthcare care provider if you have sores that have not healed within two weeks or if you’re experiencing a rash that covers a large part of your body.

Seeing your primary care provider or dermatologist at the first sign of chronic skin inflammation or skin inflammation that’s not going away and is returning is recommended to avoid it from causing other health complications. 


Dermatitis is any kind of skin irritation affecting millions of Americans. It’s usually caused by an immune system reaction due to irritation or allergy (contact dermatitis).

You can experience dermatitis at any ethnicity, age, and gender but Black and Asian Americans may be more likely to experience atopic dermatitis than Whites.

Dermatitis is linked to risk of infections and higher mortality. Seeing your healthcare provider for screening and early detection can help you establish the right treatment and prevent further health complications.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Allergies and Infections Diseases. Eczema (atopic dermatitis).

  2. National Eczema Association. Contact dermatitis.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Eczema types: Atopic dermatitis overview

  4. National Eczema Association. Eczema stats.

  5. Kaufman BP, Guttman-Yassky, E, Alexis AF. Atopic dermatitis in diverse racial and ethnic groups-Variations in epidemiology, genetics, clinical presentation and treatment. Experimental dermatology. 2018;27(4), 340–357. doi:10.1111/exd.13514

  6. Healthy Children. Diaper rash.

  7. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Atopic dermatitis.

  8. Medline Plus. Atopic dermatitis

  9. The American Academy of Dermatology Association. Patch testing can find what's causing your rash.

  10. LSHTM. People with severe atopic eczema may have increased risk of death from several causes

  11. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Burns, cuts, and other minor wounds.

  12. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Rash 101 in adults: when to seek medical treatment.

By Michelle Pugle
Michelle Pugle, BA, MA, is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of contributing accurate and accessible health news and information to authority websites and print magazines. Her work focuses on lifestyle management, chronic illness, and mental health. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: A Memoir From an Anorexic Teen Mind.