Sperm count decline is accelerating globally, threatening humanity’s future, study warns

Global sperm counts have halved over the past five decades and the rate of decline has more than doubled since the turn of the century, new research shows.

The international team behind it says the data is alarming and points to a fertility crisis threatening the survival of humanity.

Their meta-analysis looked at 223 studies based on semen samples from more than 57,000 men in 53 countries.

It shows for the first time that men in Latin America, Asia and Africa share a similar drop in total sperm count and concentration as previously observed in Europe, North America and Australia.

The authors warn that average sperm counts have now dropped dangerously close to the threshold that makes fertilization difficult, meaning couples around the world could face problems if they have a baby without medical attention.

The findings, published Tuesday in the journal Update on human reproductionserve as “a canary in a coal mine,” said Professor Hagai Levine, the study’s lead author from the Hadassah Braun School of Public Health at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“We have a serious problem that, if left unsolved, could jeopardize the survival of humanity,” he said. in a statement.

A 50% drop in sperm count

As part of a team that also occurs Professor Shanna Swan at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, Levine teamed up with researchers in Denmark, Brazil, Spain, Israel and the US to study sperm count trends in regions that had not been previously assessed.

The same team already reported an alarming drop in sperm counts in the Western world in 2017.

In this latest study, they found that average sperm counts around the world had dropped by more than 50 percent over the past five decades.

Data from 1973 to 2018 showed that sperm counts fell by an average of 1.2 percent per year. Data after the year 2000 show a decline of more than 2.6 percent per year.

“It’s just unbelievable. I couldn’t believe it myself,” Levine told Euronews Next.

The fact that these findings were confirmed in the rest of the world points to a global crisis similar to climate change, according to Levine.

“As with climate change, the impact may be different in different places, but overall the phenomenon is global and should be treated as such,” he added.

“It’s like a pandemic. It’s everywhere. And some causes can stay with us for a very long time.”

Falling chances of conception

The researchers say that while sperm counts are “an imperfect proxy for fertility,” they are closely related to fertility chances.

They explain that above a threshold of 40-50 million/ml, a higher sperm count does not necessarily imply a higher chance of fertilization.

On the other hand, below that threshold, the chance of fertilization decreases rapidly as sperm count decreases.

“At a population level, the drop in mean sperm count from 104 to 49 million/ml that we report here implies a substantial increase in the number of men with a delayed time to conception,” the study authors wrote.

While their study did not examine the causes of this drop in sperm count, the authors say it reflects “a global crisis related to our modern environment and lifestyle,” and they point to the disruptive role of chemicals on our hormonal and reproductive systems.

They add that sperm count is also an indicator of men’s health, with low levels associated with an increased risk of chronic disease, testicular cancer and a shorter lifespan.

The tipping point for humanity?

The findings were published on World Population Day passed the 8 billion markfurther straining the planet’s limited natural resources.

“Philosophically, the decline in sperm count and infertility is somehow the world’s way of balancing what’s going on,” Levine told Euronews Next.

“But you know, that’s just a thought. It’s not a scientific thought.”

He said the findings should worry everyone — regardless of their opinion of how many people the planet needs right now.

“Sperm count is a very good measure of global health and our future. And no matter how many people you think you need on Earth, you don’t want it determined by dangerous events rather than our own choices,” Levine said.

“I think we need to monitor it very carefully on a global level, on a population level, on a local country level, and also on a personal level,” he added, calling on authorities to improve lifestyles and limit human exposure to man-made limit chemicals through better regulation.

“Sometimes there’s a tipping point and the system suddenly collapses. It means something is happening to our ecological systems, our reproductive systems – and at some point it’s just too much.”

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