A new study published by a prestigious scientific journal has revealed that sperm counts worldwide have plummeted by 62% in less than a half-century—and even more worrying, the rate of decline continues to accelerate.
The study, conducted by research scientists at Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, was based on 153 estimates from men who were unaware of their fertility. They found that average sperm concentration fell from an estimated 101.2m per ml to 49.0m per ml between 1973 and 2018, a 52% drop, while overall sperm counts decreased by 62% during the same period.
The meta-analysis extracted data from 10,000 scientific journals and focused on 223 peer-reviewed studies based on sperm samples from more than 57,000 men across 53 countries.
The study’s findings, which were published in the journal Human Reproduction Update, also revealed that for the first time, declines in sperm counts and concentration were not only witnessed in Europe, North America, and Austria, but also in Asia, Central and South America, and Africa.
Moreover, the rate of decline appears to be accelerating, which is a worrying indication that the overall health of men is deteriorating. It’s also worth noting that low sperm counts are linked to an increased risk of chronic disease, testicular cancer, and a decreased lifespan.
“There is a strong link between a man’s reproductive health and his overall health. So it could also speak to that maybe we’re not as healthy as we once were,” Dr. Michael Eisenberg, a urologist with Stanford Medicine, said.
Commenting on the study’s findings, Professor Hagai Levine, the lead research scientist and first author of the study, said: “We should be amazed and worried by the finding … I think this is another signal that something is wrong with the globe and that we need to do something about it. So yes, I think it’s a crisis, that we [had] better tackle now, before it may reach a tipping point which may not be reversible.”
He added: “Our findings serve as a canary in a coal mine. We have a serious problem on our hands that, if not mitigated, could threaten humankind’s survival. We urgently call for global action to promote healthier environments for all species and reduce exposures and behaviors that threaten our reproductive health.”
Dr. Sarah Martins de Silva, who works at the University of Dundee as a senior lecturer in reproductive medicine, expressed deep concern that the rate of decline of sperm counts had doubled since 2000, and called for more research to be carried out in the area.
“The human race is not at immediate risk of extinction but we really need research to understand why sperm counts are falling,” she began. “Exposure to pollution, plastics, smoking, drugs, and prescribed medication, as well as lifestyles, such as obesity and poor diet, have all been suggested to be contributory factors although effects are poorly understood and ill-defined.”
Findings from previous studies, carried out in 2014 and 2016, suggest that keeping a mobile phone in your pants pocket may be harmful to male fertility, as they can decrease sperm counts and have detrimental effects on sperm quality, including decreased motility and negative changes to sperm viability.
The latest study’s findings come as the global population on November 15th, 2022 passed the 8 billion mark.