Yahoo! News

Male sperm counts have fallen by almost a third since 1989, with factors such as drinking and obesity possibly to blame, according to a British study.

A survey of 7,500 men who attended the Aberdeen Fertility Centre in northern Scotland between 1989 and 2002 brought alarming findings, researchers said Monday.

Analysis of sperm samples showed that in men with what is considered a “normal” concentration of sperm — defined as over 20 million sperm per millilitre of semen — the average sperm count fell by 29 percent.

This “must cause some concern and needs to be explained”, said Dr Siladitya Bhattacharya, who led the research project.

“There could be a number of lifestyle factors which could play a role in this,” he said.

Hmm. Have our lifestyles changed that much since 1989?

In 1986, Scotland was affected by the fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but Bhattacharya said it was “almost impossible” to say for certain whether this or any other individual factor was to blame.

It could also not be concluded that there had been a fall in male fertility, as factors other than just sperm count played a part, he added.

“There has been an increase in men seeking treatment for male infertility, but whether this is due to a significant increase in this condition or because men are more aware of new techniques which have been developed to help them, we cannot say.”

So, whether this finding is generalizable beyond people who check in to fertility clinics in Scotland’s is anybody’s guess. I’m guessing not.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dodd says:

    The explanation that most likely explains the bulk of the variance is that any social stigma that attached to visiting a fertility clinic has fallen markedly in the last 15 years, so more guys who actually need their services are showing up. I’d be willing to bet, in fact, that that variable swamps all others.

  2. Kate says:

    Age, is my best guess.

    Unless infertility is included under their public health care system, I suspect the infertility clinic demographics are tilted disproportionately towards those who have the means to seek treatment, and that may represent a disproportionate number of the “professional class” who have decided to start their families after their careers are well in place.

  3. jen says:

    I can’t help but wonder if sexually transmitted diseases are a factor. They’re a proven factor in female infertility, why couldn’t an STD affect sperm production?

  4. Paul says:

    D- All of the above