Numerous studies have reported declines in semen quality and other markers of male reproductive health. Our previous meta-analysis reported a significant decrease in sperm concentration (SC) and total sperm count (TSC) among men from North America–Europe–Australia (NEA) based on studies published during 1981–2013. At that time, there were too few studies with data from South/Central America–Asia–Africa (SAA) to reliably estimate trends among men from these continents.
OBJECTIVE AND RATIONALE
The aim of this study was to examine trends in sperm count among men from all continents. The broader implications of a global decline in sperm count, the knowledge gaps left unfilled by our prior analysis and the controversies surrounding this issue warranted an up-to-date meta-analysis.
We searched PubMed/MEDLINE and EMBASE to identify studies of human SC and TSC published during 2014–2019. After review of 2936 abstracts and 868 full articles, 44 estimates of SC and TSC from 38 studies met the protocol criteria. Data were extracted on semen parameters (SC, TSC, semen volume), collection year and covariates. Combining these new data with data from our previous meta-analysis, the current meta-analysis includes results from 223 studies, yielding 288 estimates based on semen samples collected 1973–2018. Slopes of SC and TSC were estimated as functions of sample collection year using simple linear regression as well as weighted meta-regression. The latter models were adjusted for predetermined covariates and examined for modification by fertility status (unselected by fertility versus fertile), and by two groups of continents: NEA and SAA. These analyses were repeated for data collected post-2000. Multiple sensitivity analyses were conducted to examine assumptions, including linearity.