Decreased sperm quality: phone to blame?

2023-11-27 09:38:30

For half a century, men have seen the quality of their sperm decline. For scientists, this phenomenon is linked to the impact of different environmental and behavioral factors. Since then, given the predominant place occupied today by mobile phones, could their use affect the quality of sperm and therefore male reproductive health? This is what Swiss scientists sought to find out. Focus on the conclusions of their study published in the journal Fertility & Sterility.

Sperm quality and reproductive health

Viscous liquid secreted from puberty by the male reproductive sexual organs, sperm is essential for fertilization. It is made up of water, hormones, neurotransmitters, endorphins and 1% of sperm, the number of which must vary between 20 and 200 million per milliliter of liquid. To assess sperm quality, several parameters must be taken into account such as the concentration of sperm, their total number, their motility and their morphology.

To know ! According to the World Health Organization, the percentage chance of pregnancy decreases if the sperm concentration is less than 40 million per milliliter of semen.

However, it is clear that for half a century, the quality of sperm has been declining with the number of spermatozoa having been halved (from 99 million per milliliter on average fifty years ago to 47 million per milliliter today). As for the causes of male infertility, they remain undetermined in 35% of cases. For scientists, this deterioration in sperm quality is linked to the impact of different environmental factors (such as endocrine disruptors, pesticides, radiation) and behavioral factors (such as diet, alcohol, stress, smoking). ).

Since then, given the predominant place that mobile phones occupy in our daily lives, could their use affect the quality of sperm and therefore reproductive health ? This is what Swiss scientists sought to find out.

Cell phones responsible for reduced sperm quality?

Building on the conclusions of a first national study carried out in 2019 on the quality of the sperm of young Swiss men, a team of scientists from the University of Geneva set up a large cross-sectional study. This new study deciphers the data of 2,886 young Swiss men aged 18 to 22, recruited between 2005 and 2018 in six military conscription centers.

The objective of this work? Study the link between the quality of the sperm of 2886 men and their use of mobile phones. To do this, participants were invited to complete a detailed questionnaire relating to:

  • Their general health.
  • Their lifestyle habits.
  • The frequency of use of their cell phone.
  • The place to store their cell phone when it is not in use.

The scientists then observed a link between lower sperm concentration and frequent cell phone use. The sperm concentration was in fact reduced by 21% in frequent users (more than 20 times/day) compared to rare users (less than once/week).

Another interesting observation: more pronounced in the first years of monitoring, this association faded over time, certainly linked to the transition from the 2G network to the 3G network, then from the 3G network to the 4G network.

To know ! The progress made in cellular technologies and the successive changes in generations of these technologies (2,3,4G) have allowed a reduction in the transmission power of mobile phones.
As for the location of the cell phone when not in use, it was not associated with lower sperm quality. But the authors are cautious on this point because the number of participants who indicated that they did not carry their phone close to their body was too small to be able to draw a firm conclusion.

Finally, no association could be found between mobile phone use and low sperm motility and morphology.

Research to deepen

Furthermore, the authors agree that this study faces certain limitations to the extent that the data collected remains declarative data. However, the frequency of use announced by the participants is far from being a precise indicator of their actual exposure to electromagnetic radiation.

A new study was therefore launched in 2023 in order to deepen research on the subject. It consists of accurately measure users’ exposure to electromagnetic waves according to the different types of possible use (phone calls, web browsing, sending messages). To do this, data is collected using an application downloaded by each participant to their mobile phone. The objective being to assess the real impact of these waves on fertility and male reproductive health. To be continued!

Déborah L., Doctor in Pharmacy


– The cell phone would harm the quality of sperm. University of Geneva. Accessed November 7, 2023.

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