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New Studies Measure Impact of Stress on Male Fertility

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There's a growing body of research pointing to the impact of stress on male fertility, and researchers of the latest study found that psychological stress affects sperm quality. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

Stress has long been seen as an important health variable, and while its impact on female fertility is well documented, there's now a growing body of research finding similar effects on male fertility.

"Stress in particular is an important part of the social environment that hasn't been sufficiently studied in relation to male reproductive health," says Teresa Janevic from Rutgers School of Public Health.

Janevic and Pam Factor-Litvak from Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health studied semen samples from 193 men aged 38 to 49. They were looking at sperm concentration, how well they swim and whether they were misshapen in relation to how objectively stressful the men's lives are and how stressful they perceive their lives to be.

"In the objective measure of what's happened to you, it's loss of a loved one, for example. Another example is having recently gone through separation or divorce," Janevic says. "Whereas the perceived measures, how often did you not feel able to control what was happening in your life."

The researchers say the correlation was clear.

"So the more stress you perceived, the lower the swimming quality of the sperm, the lower the numbers of the sperm and the worse the morphology was," Factor-Litvak says.

Being unemployed turned out to have a major impact on semen quality.

"I think it speaks a lot to the economic downturn and the recession and the influence it might have on men's health, which hasn't probably been considered enough in previous research," Janevic says.

It's still unclear why stress has such a dramatic impact, but the research is growing on that as well.

"Stress has been known to actually cause disruptions in the neuroendocrine system, which is a series of hormones that control fertility," Factor-Litvak says.

So if you're trying to conceive, these experts say it's time to start finding ways to reduce stress in your life.

"Physical activity is a fabulous way to reduce stress," Factor-Litvak says.

The study was published in the journal of Fertility and Sterility.

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