Stress Lowers Quality of Sperm and Fertility

First Posted: May 30, 2014 04:58 AM EDT

Stress is known to have a negative impact on health and adding evidence to this is a new study that ties psychological stress to reduced sperm and semen quality.

Though the impact of stress is experienced by both the sexes, anxiety and tension is known to take an additional toll on the health of men. Extremely high levels of stress negatively affect a man's health. In a latest study, researchers claim that stress degrades the quality of sperm.

The collaborative study led by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School Public Health and Rutgers School of Public Health based the finding on observation of  193 men of ages 38-49 who were a part of the Study of the Environment and Reproduction at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, California, between 2005-2008.

 The key indicator for male fertility is the quality of semen, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

"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," says senior author Pam Factor-Litvak, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. "These deficits could be associated with fertility problems."

As a part of the study, the participants were made to complete tests that helped measure the work and life stress on both subjective and objective scales. The semen samples were also collected and tested.

The researchers noticed that stress took a toll on the quality of semen on both measures. The results remained the same even after taking in to consideration their history of reproductive health problems or other existing health issues.

Though workplace stress was not a major factor, researchers claim that it may still affect men's reproductive health as job stress lowers the testosterone levels. Things were not different in the case of unemployed men as they had lower quality of sperm compared to employed men irrespective of how stressed they were.

Though it not fully known how stress affects quality of semen, the researchers assume that stress causes release of steroid hormone, glucocoticoids, that in turn lowers levels of testosterone and sperm production. Another factor could be the oxidative stress that is known to affect semen quality as well as fertility.

"Stress has long been identified as having an influence on health. Our research suggests that men's reproductive health may also be affected by their social environment," says Teresa Janevic, PhD, the study's first author and an assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

The study was documented in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

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