Stress could negatively affect men’s sperm, according to a small new study.
Research published in the journal Fertility and Sterility shows an association between experiencing two or more stressful life events over the past year and and sperm motility, shape and concentration.
“Men who feel stressed are more likely to have lower concentrations of sperm in their ejaculate, and the sperm they have are more likely to be misshapen or have impaired motility,” study researcher Pam Factor-Litvak, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said in a statement. “These deficits could be associated with fertility problems.”
The study included 193 men ages 38 to 49, who provided researchers with semen samples, as well as information on their stressors, both objective and subjective. Objective measures of stress included reports of life events that are known to cause stress, while subjective measures of stress included reports of how they felt. Stress related to both life and work was evaluated.
After taking into account reproductive health history and fertility concerns, researchers found an association between life stress and semen quality. While work stress did not seem to be linked with semen, they did find that job strain is associated with decreased testosterone (which could then affect reproductive health).
While the study did not show a causal relationship -- just an association -- researchers noted that some possible reasons for the association include oxidative stress, as well as hormones called glucocorticoids that may be triggered with stress and affect the production of sperm and testosterone.
Stress may not be the only thing that could affect men’s semen. A Harvard study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference last year showed that processed meat is associated with decreased semen quality. And other research has shown associations between decreased sperm and watching TV for more than 20 hours per week, as well as being overweight. A 2010 study also linked lower sperm count with the plastics chemical BPA.