Sperm Counts May Be Declining, Globally, But the Jury is Still Out

A new review was conducted of data on sperm counts from around the world. The review found that, as a whole, sperm counts have dropped by half in the last 50 years, going from 104 million to 49 million sperm per milliliter (a normal sperm count is anything over 40 million per milliliter).

The data collected for this study was taken from Central America, South America, Asia, and Africa, which accounted for almost 3,000 studies and includes newer findings in addition to older ones. Researchers were careful not to include studies from men who had sought medical testing for infertility – only from men with normal sperm counts.

Between 1973 and 2018, sperm counts fell by a little over 1% each year, making the global decline average a staggering 53%. Furthermore, when examining the data in smaller intervals of a few years, researchers saw an “accelerated” trend. For example, there was a 1.16% decline per year after 1973 compared to a 2.64% decline per year after 2020 (104 million to 49 million sperm per milliliter, almost sinking below the normal range).

Though this data has yet to be confirmed, the trajectory does not look bright. This not only impacts male fertility, but men’s health in general, as researchers see these declining sperm figures as inextricably linked with men’s deteriorating health. After all, the health of sperm is dictated by the health of the man.

Alarming as these statistics are to many, others are not getting up in arms just yet, since scientists have used different methods for counting sperm in the past vs. today, so some experts are not sold on the numbers – they feel they don’t have enough consistent data yet to confirm these findings. One thing everyone seems to be united in is wanting further study of this trend.

One such area which still needs investigation is the question of why. If sperm counts are falling, why would that be? Possible reasons could include the male’s own biological makeup as he was developing in the womb. If his mother smoked, for example, or was exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals while pregnant, this could affect the DNA of the fetus to the extent that it could damage their developing sperm. Other reasons could include lifestyle, including diet, weight, and exercise habits.

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