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Humanity is facing a reproduction crisis

A new study published in the journal Human Reproduction Update has found that sperm concentration has halved over the past four decades, and the rate of decline is currently accelerating. Thus, if urgent action is not taken to tackle this massive drop in sperm count, humans could face a reproductive crisis in the near future.

Based on 153 estimates from men who were probably not aware of their fertility, the scientists discovered that the average sperm concentration decreased from an estimated 101.2m per ml to 49.0m per ml between 1973 and 2018 – a staggering decline of 51.6 percent. During the same period, total sperm counts fell by 62.3 percent. 

In 2017, the same team of researchers found that sperm concentration has more than halved in the last 40 years. However, while that study focused only on Europe, North America, and Australia, this new research included more recent data from 53 countries. The analysis revealed that significant declines in sperm concentration were seen not only in the regions previously studied, but also in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Unfortunately, the rate of decline appears to be currently increasing worldwide.

“I think this is another signal that something is wrong with the globe and that we need to do something about it. So yes, I think it’s a crisis, that we better tackle now, before it may reach a tipping point which may not be reversible,” said study lead author Hagai Levine, a public health physician and epidemiologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

According to previous research, fertility could be compromised if sperm concentration falls below 40m per ml. While the latest estimates are still above this threshold, this is an average figure, suggesting that the percentage of men with sperm count below this threshold must have certainly increased. “Such a decline clearly represents a decline in the capacity of the population to reproduce,” Levine said.

Although it is still unclear which factors might be causing this worrisome trend, scientists think that endocrine-disrupting chemicals or other environmental factors could play a significant role, affecting the foetus already in the womb. Moreover, since smoking, drinking, obesity or poor diet may also contribute to this decline, a healthy lifestyle could help boost sperm counts.

According to Richard Sharpe, an expert in male reproductive health at the University of Edinburgh, this trend appears to be a worldwide phenomenon that spells bad news not only for couple fertility but also for society in general. “These issues are not just a problem for couples trying to have kids. They are also a huge problem for society in the next 50-odd years as less and less young people will be around to work and support the increasing bulge of elderly folk,” he concluded.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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