Could your MOBILE be making you infertile?

Could your PHONE be making you infertile? Alarming study on plunging sperm counts sparks warning for men to ‘be conscious’ of using their mobile too much

  • The quality of a man’s semen is determined by factors like sperm concentration
  • Many studies have shown that semen quality has decreased over last 50 years 

Men who use their mobile phone frequently suffer 21 per cent lower sperm concentration, according to a new study.

The quality of a man’s semen is determined by factors like sperm concentration, total sperm count, how well the sperm swims and the size and shape of the sperm.

Many studies have shown that semen quality has decreased over the last 50 years, with sperm count dropping from an average of 99 million sperm per millilitre to 47 million.

It is thought that this drop is due to a combination of environmental factors such as pesticides and radiation, and lifestyle habits such as diet, smoking, alcohol and stress.

The team, from the University of Geneva, collected data on 2,886 men aged 18 to 22, who provided a semen sample. Participants also answered questions on their mobile phone use and where they placed it when not using it

Researchers wanted to investigate whether electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones might affect semen quality.

The team, from the University of Geneva, collected data on 2,886 men aged 18 to 22, who provided a semen sample.

Participants also answered questions on their mobile phone use and where they placed it when not using it.

Analysis revealed there was a link between frequent mobile phone use and lower sperm concentration.

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Men who used their phone more than 20 times a day had a 21 per cent decrease in sperm concentration compared to those who did not use their phone more than once a week.

This link was found to be more pronounced during the earlier years of the study, between 2005 and 2007, and gradually decreased with time up to 2018.

Researcher Martin Roosli, who worked on the study, said: ‘This trend corresponds to the transition from 2G to 3G, and then 3G to 4G, that has led to a reduction in the transmitting power of phones.’

The results also showed that where the men kept their phone – for example in their trouser pocket – did not affect semen quality.

Writing in the journal Fertility & Sterility the researchers explained that one in six couples have issues conceiving, with around half of instances attributable to the male partner.

‘The use of mobile phones has increased substantially in recent decades’ they said, ‘and there is a growing concern about the possible detrimental effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted by these devices on human health and particularly on reproductive functions.

‘This study suggests that higher mobile phone use is associated with lower sperm concentration and total sperm count.’

They added that the mechanism through which mobile phone use may affect the male reproductive system remain ‘unclear’.

First author Rita Rahban said: ‘Do the microwaves emitted by mobile phones have a direct or indirect effect? 

‘Do they cause a significant increase in temperature in the testes? Do they affect the hormonal regulation of sperm production?

‘This all remains to be discovered.’

Commenting on the study Professor Allan Pacey, a fertility expert at the University of Manchester, said: ‘There have been many, many studies into this, and they’ve all been a bit rubbish.

‘But I have to say, this is quite a good paper — it’s the kind of paper I’d have like to have done myself.

‘This is just an association, so we can’t absolutely say that mobile phones are bad for sperm from this study — all you can say is that there’s an association.

‘What I do like about it is you can see a gradation over the years, which suggests that 2G was worse than 4G.’

When asked if he was surprised by the results, he said: ‘Yes, because I’ve always been a bit of a sceptic that there’s any risk.

‘I don’t think men should be worried about this, but be conscious.

‘[The effect] seems to be going down over the years, so this could be an historic thing.’

Professor Pacey added: ‘Whilst this paper gives the researchers a clear sense of direction for their future studies, I am not sure it really changes the advice I would give to men who are concerned about their fertility. 

‘If men are concerned, then keeping their phones in a bag and limiting their use is a relatively easy thing for them to do. But there is currently no evidence that will improve their sperm quality. As for me, I will be continuing to keep my phone in my trouser pocket.’

Professor Malcolm Sperrin, Fellow at the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, said: ‘The findings certainly stimulate the need for further research.

‘However, there is a vital need on the part of the lay reader to avoid over-interpreting the findings and drawing conclusions that are difficult to justify.

‘The use of a questionnaire to determine phone use is likely to be associated with large error bars but it is challenging to see how else this data could be obtained; self-reporting is notoriously prone to uncertainties.

‘There are likely to be numerous confounding factors which the authors, and future researchers, will be able to investigate such as the hypothesis that increased use of the phone being associated with anxiety which is then the cause of lower sperm quality.’


The most common cause of infertility in men is poor-quality semen, the fluid containing sperm that’s ejaculated during sex.

Possible reasons for abnormal semen include:

  • a lack of sperm – you may have a very low sperm count or no sperm at all
  • sperm that aren’t moving properly – this will make it harder for sperm to swim to the egg
  • abnormal sperm – sperm can sometimes be an abnormal shape, making it harder for them to move and fertilise an egg

Many cases of abnormal semen are unexplained.

There’s a link between increased temperature of the scrotum and reduced semen quality, but it’s uncertain whether wearing loose-fitting underwear improves fertility.


The testicles produce and store sperm. If they’re damaged, it can seriously affect the quality of your semen.

This can happen as a result of:

  • an infection of your testicles
  • testicular cancer
  • testicular surgery
  • a problem with your testicles you were born with (a congenital defect)
  • when one or both testicles hasn’t descended into the scrotum, the loose sac of skin that contains your testicles (undescended testicles)
  • injury to your testicles


Some men choose to have a vasectomy if they don’t want children or any more children.

It involves cutting and sealing off the tubes that carry sperm out of your testicles (the vas deferens) so your semen will no longer contain any sperm.

A vasectomy can be reversed, but reversals aren’t usually successful. 


Hypogonadism is an abnormally low level of testosterone, the male sex hormone involved in making sperm.

It could be caused by a tumour, taking illegal drugs, or Klinefelter syndrome, a rare syndrome where a man is born with an extra female chromosome.

Medicines and drugs

Certain types of medicines can sometimes cause infertility problems.

These medicines are listed below:

  • sulfasalazine – an anti-inflammatory medicine used to treat conditions such as Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis; sulfasalazine can decrease the number of sperm, but its effects are temporary and your sperm count should return to normal when you stop taking it
  • anabolic steroids – are often used illegally to build muscle and improve athletic performance; long-term abuse of anabolic steroids can reduce sperm count and sperm mobility
  • chemotherapy – medicines used in chemotherapy can sometimes severely reduce sperm production
  • herbal remedies – some herbal remedies, such as root extracts of the Chinese herb Tripterygium wilfordii, can affect the production of sperm or reduce the size of your testicles
  • illegal drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, can also affect semen quality.

Source: NHS 

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