Semen quality in fertile men in relation to psychosocial stress

Audra L. Gollenberg, Fan Liu, Charlene Brazil, Erma Z. Drobnis, David Guzick, James W. Overstreet, James B. Redmon, Amy Sparks, Christina Wang, Shanna H. Swan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the association between stressful life events and semen parameters. Design: Cross-sectional analysis in a pregnancy cohort study. Setting: Prenatal clinics in five U.S. cities. Patient(s): Fertile men (n = 744) in the Study for Future Families, a cohort study of pregnant women and their partners. Intervention(s): None. Main Outcome Measure(s): Sperm concentration, percent motile, and percent normal morphology and classification above/below World Health Organization (WHO) cutoffs for semen quality. Result(s): After adjusting for confounders, men reporting 2+ recent stressful life events had an increased risk of being classified below WHO thresholds for "normal" defined by concentration, motility, and morphology criteria compared with men reporting <2 stressful life events (odds ratio [OR] = 2.06; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18, 3.61; OR = 1.54; 95% CI, 1.04, 2.29; OR = 1.93; 95% CI, 1.02, 3.66 for concentration, motility and morphology, respectively). Men experiencing 2+ stressful life events had lower sperm concentration (log scale, β = -0.25; 95% CI, -0.38, -0.11) and lower percent motile sperm (β = -1.95; 95% CI, -3.98, 0.07), but percent normal morphology was less affected. Conclusion(s): These results suggest that stressful life events may be associated with decreased semen quality in fertile men. The experience of psychosocial stress may be a modifiable factor in the development of idiopathic infertility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1104-1111
Number of pages8
JournalFertility and Sterility
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010


  • Sperm concentration
  • life events
  • psychosocial stress
  • semen quality
  • sperm morphology
  • sperm motility


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