GPs voice concern for next generation in wake of declining male fertility

Article date: 13 September 2005

More than two and a half million* men in theUK could be suffering from low fertility warn GPs, according to areport out today. And a third (33%) of GPs admit they are concernedthat the decline in male fertility will add to the ageingpopulation issues we are currently facing.

In fact more than a quarter (29%) of GPsquestioned in Norwich Union Healthcare’s ‘MaleFertility’ study say that low male fertility will have adetrimental impact on the nation’s population in the futureunless men take stock and change their lifestyle habits now.

Dr Doug Wright, clinical spokesperson fromNorwich Union Healthcare, said: "The ‘Male FertilityReport’ clearly disproves the common misconception that womenare the only sufferers of fertility issues. With the nextgeneration facing increasing pressure as a result of decliningfertility and mortality it’s only fair that men accept theirresponsibility in the equation and change their lifestyles nowbefore it’s too late."

Male infertility accounts for around a third offertility problems. The quality and numbers of sperm that a manproduces have both declined over the past 30 years.1

Some experts say that sperm counts have fallenby over half on average thanks to lifestyle factors like alcoholand drugs as well as sedentary lifestyles, obesity, laptops onmen’s laps which heat up their scrotums, pesticides andfemale hormones in the water supply from the urine of women on thecontraceptive pill.2

GP Dr Ann Robinson commented "Lifestyle is ahuge contributor to the health of the nation and male fertility isjust one area adversely affected by an unhealthy lifestyle. With somany couples now experiencing the heartache of fertility problems,the fall in sperm counts is certainly a matter for concern. Theresults of this survey are shocking and should be a wake up call tomen and women that drinking and smoking too much not only gives youa bad headache in the morning but can affect your ability to starta family."

The GPs questioned agree, with nearly half (44%)saying that smoking is overwhelmingly the main contributing factorto low male fertility. With the Government still debating whether aban on smoking in public places will be introduced, together withthe new 24 hour drinking laws introduced this year, the fertilityof the nation could be set to get worse as GPs also pointed thefinger of blame at alcohol (11%) and stress (7%).

Dr Doug Wright added, "The survey results showthat men don’t really think their fertility will be an issueas 59% questioned believe women are the most likely to suffer fromfertility difficulties and only 12% view their own fertility as aconcern when thinking about starting a family."

Nearly half the men questioned (49%) were moreconcerned with the financial implications of raising a child thantheir ability to father one.

More than two thirds (67%) of GPs believe youngmen need to be made more aware of fertility issues to stop thispotential crisis with over half (52%) saying that male fertilityissues should be part of the curriculum. Men on the other handbelieve that the NHS is responsible for making them more aware oftheir fertility with nearly two thirds (63%) saying so.

Over two thirds of men (69%) say it would bebeneficial for doctors to run fertility MOTs for men wishing tostart a family and 41% of GPs agree that fertility MOT’sshould be available to male patients. But 89% of GPs feel that theydon’t have enough time to offer male fertility clinics orservices such as Fertility MOTs.

But in the meantime according to Dr Robinson:"Any man worried about his sperm count can cut down on his alcoholintake, stop smoking, cut out drugs and try to get his weight downif very overweight. These are all factors that might affect yoursperm count that men can do something about. There may also be acase for eating organic produce that doesn’t containpesticides and drinking mineral rather than tap water but the juryis still out on that."

Other findings from Norwich UnionHealthcare’s ‘Male Fertility Report’ show:

  • 34% of men believe they would be able to conceive within twomonths but more than three quarters of GPs (76%) believe it willtake the average couple between three and six months
  • Only 5% of men are aware that they may have a lower spermcount than average
  • More than one in ten men (12%) found it more difficult thanthey expected to get their partner pregnant


Media contacts:
Charlotte Ruddlesdin orJo Misson, QBO Bell Pottinger on 020 7861 2424

Norwich Union Press Officecontacts:
Lorna Wiltshire: 020 7662 1013 or 07800 695 150
James Evans: 01904 452 791 or 07800 699 525

Notes to editors:
Case studies available on request.

*According to ONS there are 28,579,869 millionmen in the UK. Norwich Union Healthcare’s research shows that9% of them could be suffering from low fertility. This equates to2,572,188 men.

1 Increase in scrotal temperature inlaptop computer users. Human Reproduction.Doi:10.1093/humrep/deh616

2 Hormones in water blamed as moremen seek breast reduction, Professor Kefah Mokbel,,,2087-1715014,00.html

  • Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned a representative sampleof 797 GB adult men aged between 16 and 54 to be interviewedbetween the 16 and 22 August 2005 by TNS. The insurer alsocommissioned a representative sample of 202 GPs to be interviewedbetween the 18 and 22 August 2005 by TNS Healthcare.

About Norwich Union Healthcare

  • Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcarearm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of income protectionand private medical insurance products that cover over 870,000lives. It is one of the largest providers of income protection andprivate medical insurance in the UK.
  • Norwich Union Healthcare is authorised and regulated by theFinancial Service Authority and is a member of the Associationof British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.
  • Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva’s internet press centre
  • An ISDN facility is available for studio quality broadcast. CallQBO Bell Pottinger on 020 7861 2424.

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