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Does High Phone Use Lower Sperm Count in Men?

By Albulena Murturi


4 December 2023

phone use semen quality

©️ senivpetro / Freepik

In recent decades, male sperm count has experienced a substantial decline of over 50% globally. This prompted researchers to investigate potential contributing factors. The noted decline raises concerns about male fertility and its implications for future generations.

Among the various factors under scrutiny, a new study has delved into the impact of mobile phone usage on semen quality. This sheds light on a previously unexplored aspect of this ongoing reproductive health concern.

Phone Use and Semen Quality

The study, encompassing men aged 18 to 22, revealed a noteworthy association between high-frequency mobile phone usage and a 21% higher risk of low overall sperm count. Additionally, participants who reported using their phones more than 20 times a day showed a 30% higher risk of low sperm concentration. The research did not specify whether participants primarily engaged in phone calls, text messaging, or a combination of both.

phone use semen quality
©️ Freepik

Curiously, as the study spanned 13 years, researchers observed that the negative impact on sperm count lessened with the evolution of phone technology. Notably, the study highlighted a more pronounced effect associated with older 2G and 3G phones compared to modern 4G and 5G versions. Despite this intriguing observation, researchers remain puzzled and unable to provide a definitive explanation for the observed trend.

Positive Findings and Limitations

On a positive note, the study did not identify any decline in the shape and motility of sperm, crucial factors influencing sperm’s ability to reach its destination. Alison Campbell, Chief Scientific Officer of Care Fertility, emphasized the importance of not causing undue alarm. She stated that the study should not prompt drastic lifestyle changes. Instead, she suggested focusing on overall health measures such as exercise, a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. Also, she advised avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and seeking assistance if experiencing difficulties conceiving.

Electronic Fields and Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields (RF-EMF)

Mobile phones emit low-level radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). The study indicated that when cell phones operate at maximum power, surrounding tissues can experience a temperature increase of up to 0.5 degrees Celsius. The impact of RF-EMF on male fertility has been a subject of controversy within the scientific community for years.

Dr. Alexander Pastuszak, an expert in urology at The University of Utah School of Medicine, highlighted that cell phones continually emit signals, with varying intensity depending on usage. While studies in mice have suggested a link between RF-EMF exposure and lower male fertility, debate persists due to inconsistent findings across different animal studies and the significant differences between human and mouse sperm development.

phone use semen quality
©️ Freepik

Cell Phone Usage Patterns and Recommendations

The study revealed that men who used their phones infrequently, between one to five times a day or less than once a week, exhibited higher sperm counts and concentrations. Conversely, as cell phone usage increased, sperm count decreased, with the lowest levels observed in men using their phones 20 or more times a day. The research also explored the impact of cell phone usage over different time periods, noting a stronger association between low sperm count and concentration and phone use between 2005 and 2007.

The study recommended minimizing direct contact between the phone and the body by using speakerphones or headphones. Also storing the phone in a backpack, briefcase, or purse would be a good idea. The California Department of Public Health supports these recommendations, emphasizing reduced RF-EMF exposure during activities such as texting, particularly in areas with low signal strength, and when downloading large files or streaming audio or video.

While the study provides valuable insights into the potential association between mobile phone usage and male sperm count, researchers caution against drawing definitive conclusions. The complex nature of factors influencing male fertility, including stress levels and environmental exposures, necessitates further research to establish a clearer understanding of these dynamics. As the scientific community grapples with the multifaceted nature of male infertility, individuals are encouraged to maintain a holistic approach to health and seek professional guidance if faced with challenges in conceiving.

Albulena Murturi

An enthusiastic learner rediscovering the joy of writing.