by Dr Agilan Arjunan, Fertility Specialist, KL Fertility Centre ( Malaysia)
For over 30 years, scientists all around the world had found some link between stress and sperm quality. However , many of these studies were either not large enough to give a concrete conclusion or used many different methods of ‘stress level’ assessments (i.e. from self-reported stress level to reporting acute stress events). This differences in study designs made comparison among the studies or even ‘pooled-data’ analysis from all these studies not practical.
However , scientists recently have revisited this topic of interest this year. They included a larger number of participants to reach a meaningful conclusions. Interestingly the participants are all generally young men (average age of 19 years) . This makes any relationship found between stress and sperm quality are likely just related to stress alone and not other ‘adult’ lifestyles choices.
The study which was carried out in Denmark , showed that men with highest stress level has significantly lower sperm concentration, total sperm count and semen volume. Interestingly they did not find an association between stress level and percentage of morphologically normal sperm and sperm motility (movement).
They also looked at any association between stress level and male hormones. There is no association between stress level and hormones which are involved in sperm production, such as FSH,LH and Testosterone. These finding are similar to previous studies looking into stress and sperm production.
This recent research again confirms that stress is an independant factor contributing to poor semen quality. In our modern urban society , there are many stress events happening daily. These could be in the form of job-related stress , relationship-related stress and other life events such as war. In addition, lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity , inadequate sleep and recreational drugs had been proven to affect semen quality adversely.
One more important message for man is that traditionally it is thought that these ‘stressors’ won’t affect sperm immediately but shows its ugly face in 2-3 months . This is because the sperm takes about 3 months to be produced in the testis. However , recent animal studies has shown some evidence of immediate effect of sperm quality with ‘acute’ stressor.
In conclusion, all man, even from a younger age need to learn to reduce daily stressors that are around them , in addition to cutting down or completely abandon habits such as smoking and unhealthy diet. Remember that man’s fertility health needs constant care and it starts today!
Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net