Male fertility in downward spiral

Drawing on a huge database of partners of infertile women undergoing assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures, researchers in France examined semen concentration in more than 26,000 men who were generally representative of the French population.

They found a continuous decrease in semen concentration of about 1.9% per year, indicating a drop of 32% over a period of 17 years.

“Projections indicate that [sperm] concentration for a 35-year-old man went from an overage of 73.6 million/ml in 1989 to 49 million/ in 2005,” the authors wrote.

They also found a 33% reduction in normal morphology but found a slight increase in motility between 1994 and 1998 which then plateaued.

The findings flagged a serious public health issue, the researchers said, as they likely reflected trends in the general population. If anything the decrease in sperm health would be an under-estimate as people undergoing ART were less likely to smoke,