Declining Sperm Counts a Concern

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A recent meta-analysis1 reviewing 185 studies found that sperm counts in men from western countries have dropped by more than 50 percent over the past four decades, and the rate of decline is not slowing.

“These findings strongly suggest a significant decline in male reproductive health,” say the study researchers in their article in the journal, Human Reproductive Update.

This review did not explore the reasons for sperm count declines. However, other studies2 have linked declining sperm counts to environmental and lifestyle factors, including obesity, tobacco and alcohol consumption, stress and chemical exposure.

The journal article concludes that “research on the causes of this continuing decline [in sperm counts] is urgently needed.”

What can be done?

Dr. Jay Lee, urologist and fertility specialist at the Southern Alberta Institute of Urology, recommends that men make the following changes to improve both their fertility and their overall health:
  • Maintain a healthy weight by eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly.
  • Prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can result in infertility in men.
  • Manage stress. Stress may have a negative impact on sperm production.
  • Avoid exposure to harmful chemicals.
    • Don’t smoke, as smoking decreases sperm production and motility.
    • Limit alcohol consumption, as heavy drinking can affect sperm count and can lead to reduced testosterone and erectile dysfunction.
    • Limit exposure to pesticides, lead and other toxins, as these chemicals can affect sperm count and sperm quality. Wear protective gear when working with harmful chemicals.
  • Stay cool. Some research indicates that increased scrotal temperature, whether from hot tubs, tight-fitting underwear or exposure to warm objects, such as laptops, can decrease sperm production.


  1. Levine H, Jørgensen N, Martino-Andrade A, Mendiola J, Weksler-Derri D, Mindis I, Pinotti R, Swan SH. Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Hum Reprod Update. 2017 Jul 25:1-14. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmx022.
  2. Sengupta P, Dutta S, Krajewska-Kulak E. The disappearing sperms: analysis of reports published between 1980 and 2015. Am J Mens Health. 2017 Jul;11(4):1279-1304. doi: 10.1177/1557988316643383.
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