Author Richard Reeves was on NPR last week expressing concern that modern males need support dealing with with changes in men’s social roles. Most of what I heard from Reeves about “male malaise” seemed fixable by men abandoning obsolete macho malarkey, getting off their lazy keesters, and doing the work of the modern world.
But maybe we should arouse some concern about male issues:
A new international study demonstrated that sperm counts among people with testes from South and Central America, Asia and Africa had been drastically dipping at unprecedented levels. This builds upon 2017 research that had already shown similar results among North American, European and Australian residents.
This is a reason for alarm because a lowered sperm count doesn’t just affect the patient’s reproductive prowess, but also points to an increased risk of testicular cancer, decreased lifespan and chronic disease. In just the past 46 years, sperm counts have fallen by over 50% worldwide.
Hagai Levine, the study’s lead author, cautions that time is running out. “Our findings serve as a canary in a coal mine. We have a serious problem on our hands that, if not mitigated, could threaten humankind’s survival,” he explains [link added; “Declining Global Sperm Count Could ‘Threaten Mankind’s Survival’; Meta-Study Reveals Worrying Results,” Weather.com, 2022.11.16].
But the solution to oligospermia isn’t re-electing some blowhard oligarch who runs on the slogan Make America Manly Again (that’s really what he’s been saying and what his frustrated snowflake followers have been hearing all along). The solution is likely to stop ejaculating chemicals into the environment with Herschel Walkerian recklessness and, again, to get off our lazy bums:
While the study does not aim to prove the cause of the decline in sperm count and concentration, Levine said animal research points to a connection between environmental toxins and hormonal disruptions or imbalances, which in turn impede reproductive capacity.
Growing evidence that plasticisers, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, toxic gasses, air pollution and poor lifestyle choices such as sedentary behaviour, poor diet and smoking all are tied to abnormal sperm count.
“The primary suspect is a mother’s exposure to man-made chemicals during pregnancy,” Levine told Health Policy Watch. “We also know exposure in adult life and lifestyle choices such as smoking and poor nutritional habits can be associated with poor sperm count.”
He stressed, however, that the research is neither definitive nor does it establish which chemicals specifically may be causing the decline [Maayan Hoffman, “Environmental Toxins Likely Cause of 50% Decline in Global Sperm Count,” Health Policy Watch, 2022.11.15].
But a fresh look at the data, published earlier this year in the journal Human Fertility, questions the theory that sperm counts are in decline.
The new analysis also found that sperm count has declined, but the drop is within the “normal” range. And perhaps more importantly for men worried about their fertility, scientists don’t actually know what the connection between sperm count and fertility looks like. So the authors of the fresh analysis offer a new way to think about the dip — the Sperm Count Biovariability hypothesis.
Marion Boulicault, one of the authors of the new paper, tells Inverse that the hypothesis hinges on a couple of crucial points:
- First, it “encourages scientists to begin with an open mind to the idea that sperm count can vary.”
- Second, that sperm count can vary “within a wide wide range.”
- Third, that “many of the changes in sperm count might be non-pathological and species-typical” [Katie McBride, “Emerging Science Debunks the Myth of Falling Sperm Counts,” The Inverse, 2021.05.28].
Maybe men need to stop obsessing over tiny cells in the human reproductive system and focus on taking practical action to make themselves, their relationships, and our planet healthier.