Is this study worth making lifestyle changes over?

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Summary:

I am worried about this, I’m conflicted as to how to interpret the results

Main Question or Discussion Point

I’ve read this study recently but I am not a scientist nor have much experience with this so I would like an expert opinion. Is this study worth making lifestyle changes over? Thank you!

Study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26949865/
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
.Scott
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Perhaps ... but ...
Their conclusion was:
Our results showed that certain aspects of cell phone use may negatively affect sperm quality in men by decreasing the semen volume, sperm concentration, or sperm count, thus impairing male fertility.
But the nature of the study is only able to indicate a correlation. So the study presents evidence that there is a correlation between men who use a cell phone or stay on line a lot and those with decreased sperm volume, etc.

The immediate question in this type of study is always whether there may be less direct cause-effect relations here. And in this case, there is a resounding "yes".

Here are some of the known causes of reduced sperm count:
  • Alcohol use. ...
  • Occupation. ...
  • Tobacco smoking. ...
  • Emotional stress. ...
  • Depression. ...
  • Weight. ...
One could readily imagine that most of those factors may be correlated to increased use of cell phone and computers.

More importantly, there is no good model describing how a cell phone or computer could affect sperm count. These devices emit microwave radiation - which can warm you up, but will not cause any direct chemical changes.
 
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  • #3
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The full paper is behind a paywall so I cannot tell for sure, but from the abstract it looks like this may be due to the look elsewhere effect.

sperm concentration ... and total sperm count ... in 2013; semen volume ... and total sperm count ... in 2015
So cell phones stopped reducing sperm concentration after 2013 and only started reducing semen volume in 2015. Cell phones decreased sperm count in 2013 and 2015, but not in 2014. So what changed? Did cell phones get more sperm-friendly in 2014? Did their recruitment or testing methodology change?

Usually, when I have seen results like that it comes from performing a large number of statistical tests without correcting for multiple comparisons. Imagine that you use a traditional 95% confidence threshold. That means that if you do 20 tests you expect that 1 will be wrong just due to chance. If you do 20 tests and find one is significant and then report that one then you are almost certainly reporting a non-effect. This is called the “look elsewhere effect”. It increases your chances of being wrong simply by doing many statistical tests.
 
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  • #4
A.T.
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Is this study worth making lifestyle changes over?
Should you try to use your cell phone less? Yes, regardless of the study.
 
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  • #5
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The full paper is behind a paywall so I cannot tell for sure, but from the abstract it looks like this may be due to the look elsewhere effect.



So cell phones stopped reducing sperm concentration after 2013 and only started reducing semen volume in 2015. Cell phones decreased sperm count in 2013 and 2015, but not in 2014. So what changed? Did cell phones get more sperm-friendly in 2014? Did their recruitment or testing methodology change?

Usually, when I have seen results like that it comes from performing a large number of statistical tests without correcting for multiple comparisons. Imagine that you use a traditional 95% confidence threshold. That means that if you do 20 tests you expect that 1 will be wrong just due to chance. If you do 20 tests and find one is significant and then report that one then you are almost certainly reporting a non-effect. This is called the “look elsewhere effect”. It increases your chances of being wrong simply by doing many statistical tests.
Thank you! So I don’t have to worry that much?
 
  • #6
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1
Perhaps ... but ...
Their conclusion was:
But the nature of the study is only able to indicate a correlation. So the study presents evidence that there is a correlation between men who use a cell phone or stay on line a lot and those with decreased sperm volume, etc.

The immediate question in this type of study is always whether there may be less direct cause-effect relations here. And in this case, there is a resounding "yes".

Here are some of the known causes of reduced sperm count:
  • Alcohol use. ...
  • Occupation. ...
  • Tobacco smoking. ...
  • Emotional stress. ...
  • Depression. ...
  • Weight. ...
One could readily imagine that most of those factors may be correlated to increased use of cell phone and computers.

More importantly, there is no good model describing how a cell phone or computer could affect sperm count. These devices emit microwave radiation - which can warm you up, but will not cause any direct chemical changes.
Thank you! The study said they accounted for certain factors but I guess you can’t control everything.
 
  • #7
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Is this study worth making lifestyle changes over?
The study (as much as I see from it) is focused on cell phone usage.
Usually when you actually use the phone is exactly the moment when it is farther from your balls (and related organs). It is a bit hard to expect any direct effect measured this way.

My huble opinion is, that a reliable study would be about the brain - or about phones kept in pocket.

About possible indirect relations - well, do you really need a study made to be about so sensitive matter for males (so easy to translate the thing as clickbait) to re-think your everyday habits?

See:
Here are some of the known causes of reduced sperm count:
  • Alcohol use. ...
  • Occupation. ...
  • Tobacco smoking. ...
  • Emotional stress. ...
  • Depression. ...
  • Weight. ...
Plenty of possible direction to revise your lifestyle, regardless of phone usage.
 
  • #8
8
1
The study (as much as I see from it) is focused on cell phone usage.
Usually when you actually use the phone is exactly the moment when it is farther from your balls (and related organs). It is a bit hard to expect any direct effect measured this way.

My huble opinion is, that a reliable study would be about the brain - or about phones kept in pocket.

About possible indirect relations - well, do you really need a study made to be about so sensitive matter for males (so easy to translate the thing as clickbait) to re-think your everyday habits?

See:

Plenty of possible direction to revise your lifestyle, regardless of phone usage.
Thank you! The subjects where all collage students, does this also make the study less reliable as they aren't random?
 
  • #9
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The full paper is behind a paywall so I cannot tell for sure, but from the abstract it looks like this may be due to the look elsewhere effect.



So cell phones stopped reducing sperm concentration after 2013 and only started reducing semen volume in 2015. Cell phones decreased sperm count in 2013 and 2015, but not in 2014. So what changed? Did cell phones get more sperm-friendly in 2014? Did their recruitment or testing methodology change?

Usually, when I have seen results like that it comes from performing a large number of statistical tests without correcting for multiple comparisons. Imagine that you use a traditional 95% confidence threshold. That means that if you do 20 tests you expect that 1 will be wrong just due to chance. If you do 20 tests and find one is significant and then report that one then you are almost certainly reporting a non-effect. This is called the “look elsewhere effect”. It increases your chances of being wrong simply by doing many statistical tests.
also, the subjects where all collage students which I assume makes the study less reliable as they aren’t the general population and don’t represent the average person as students use phones more then the average
 
  • #10
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also, the subjects where all collage students which I assume makes the study less reliable as they aren’t the general population and don’t represent the average person as students use phones more then the average
It doesn’t necessarily make it less reliable, but it does make it less generalizable. The results might be perfectly accurate (or might not as described above) for college students but not hold for other demographics for some reason.
 
  • #11
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It doesn’t necessarily make it less reliable, but it does make it less generalizable. The results might be perfectly accurate (or might not as described above) for college students but not hold for other demographics for some reason.
Thank you! So, overall, would you say that I shouldn’t worry?
 
  • #12
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This study doesn’t make me worry. But you have do decide the appropriate amount of worry for yourself. Things that make me not worry that may not apply to you are:

1) I am older than the subjects in the study
2) I already have 5 kids
3) I am just generally not a worry-prone person
4) and most importantly I do not know the other research in this field
 
  • #13
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1
This study doesn’t make me worry. But you have do decide the appropriate amount of worry for yourself. Things that make me not worry that may not apply to you are:

1) I am older than the subjects in the study
2) I already have 5 kids
3) I am just generally not a worry-prone person
4) and most importantly I do not know the other research in this field
Thank you! I'm a teenager so I can't say the same but I don't think I want kids and I'd accept any risk regardless. I am not worried about myself, more causing someone else to become infertile. Another downside is that infertility has been linked to cancer, however `I guess that everyone uses a phone so my phone use won't impact them, I'm not a scientist so this might not be true but that's all I can think of.
 
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  • #14
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This study doesn’t make me worry. But you have do decide the appropriate amount of worry for yourself. Things that make me not worry that may not apply to you are:

1) I am older than the subjects in the study
2) I already have 5 kids
3) I am just generally not a worry-prone person
4) and most importantly I do not know the other research in this field
I think I've realised why sperm concentration didn't increase after 2013, they were looking at specifically internet use in 2013 but in 2014 and 2015 they looked at mobile data network use. So it could be wifi doing the damage, but I don't know for sure.
 

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