Prolonged stress, such as that experienced during military conflict, can have an adverse impact on sperm quality and male fertility, a study has found. Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka University in Israel showed that more than a third (37%) of the sperm samples taken during a stressful period were found to have low sperm motility.
“Mental stress is known to have an adverse effect on fertility, but there is little research on the impact of stress on sperm quality,” said Eliahu Levitas, from Ben-Gurion University. “This study shows that prolonged stress can have an effect on sperm quality,” said Levitas.
In general, the probability of weak motility in sperm samples taken during periods of prolonged stress was 47% higher. Weak motility makes it less likely that the sperm will successfully fertilise an egg. The study included 10,536 samples donated during unstressful periods between 2009-2017, which were compared to 659 sperm samples taken during and up to two months after two military conflicts between Israel and Gaza in 2012 and 2014.
The subjects’ average age was 32, and 44% were smokers. “Our reasoning was that even men who heard incoming rocket warning sirens during a conflict experienced stress throughout the day over a longer period. We were surprised to discover that there is a connection between the security situation and the sperm counts,” said Levitas.