Men with multiple defects in their semen appear to be at increased risk of dying sooner than men with normal semen, according to a study of some 12,000 men who were evaluated at two different centers specializing in male-infertility problems.
In that study, led by Michael Eisenberg, MD, PhD, Stanford’s director of male reproductive medicine and surgery, men with more than one such defect such as reduced total semen volume, low sperm counts or motility, or aberrant sperm shape were more than twice as likely to die, over a seven-and-a-half-year follow-up period, than men found to be free of such issues.
Given that one in seven couples in developed countries encounter fertility problems at some point, Eisenberg told me, a two-fold increase in mortality rates qualifies as a serious health issue. As he told me for an explanatory release I wrote about the study:
"Smoking and diabetes — either of which doubles mortality risk — both get a lot of attention... But here we’re seeing the same doubled risk with male infertility, which is relatively understudied.”
Moreover, the difference was statistically significant, despite the fact that relatively few men died, due primarily to their relative youth (typically between 30 and 40 years old) when first evaluated. And the difference persisted despite the researchers' efforts to control for differences in health status and age between the two groups.