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Modern life rough on men
August 18th, 2011
07:30 AM ET

Modern life rough on men

Didn’t men use to be more masculine? They were more ready  to fight back, right? They walked with more swagger, and just did more things their way.

Researchers can’t measure swagger – but they can measure testosterone, the male sex hormone most responsible for masculine behaviors – and studies show that testosterone levels in men have been on the decline for decades.

Two major studies have confirmed the phenomenon, one in U.S. men and another in Danish men. In the U.S. study, the total testosterone levels measured in men’s blood dropped approximately 22% between 1987 and 2004.

Of course testosterone levels drop as men get older, but what makes the study shocking is that men today actually have less testosterone than men used to have at the same age.

The challenges to men’s health may not be limited to testosterone levels. The amount of sperm in ejaculated semen may be falling too.

A 1992 Danish analysis of sperm quality from other studies concluded that sperm quality has been dropping for decades, and a 1997 reanalysis using different mathematical modeling confirmed the decline, estimating a drop in sperm levels of about 1.5% per year in the United States.

But researchers have been gathering new data since 1996, this time using semen from Danish 18-year olds testing for military service.

That data shows no such decline at all. Oddly, the results have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but were instead released early to the Danish government, which then published them online.

If there’s strong evidence that testosterone is dropping, and the jury is still out on the decline of sperm, what other health challenges are men facing?

Male sex organ malformations are certainly among them. Hypospadias for example, a condition in which the man’s urethra opens somewhere before the tip of the penis, nearly doubled in prevalence from 1970 to 1993 according to national Birth Defects Monitoring Program.

Another study found that the percentage of babies in neonatal intensive care units with hypospadias jumped from just .4% in 1987 to 4% in 2000.

Boys also suffer higher rates of once-rare disorders like ADHD and autism. A comprehensive study of South Korean schoolchildren published earlier this year estimates 3.74% of all boys in that country have some form of autism, compared to 1.74% of girls.

To top it all off: there’s evidence that the percentage of babies born male is declining.

In the general population the difference is slight, but statistically relevant. One group of epidemiologists found that in the United States, the percentage of Caucasian babies born male decreased from 51.43% in 1970 to 51.22% in 2002. That’s equivalent to about 21 fewer men per 10,000 births.

In some populations, the drop is far more significant.

A group of Native Americans – the Chippewas of Aamjiwnaang – live on a reserve surrounded by large industrial chemical plants in Ontario, Canada. The percentage of male births there dropped from a normal rate of 55.1% in the years 1989-1993 to just 34.8% in the years 1999-2003.

Why is this happening?

Many researchers cited here mention changes in our environment, like an increase in the number of chemicals we’re exposed to in the womb, and throughout life.

Precisely how it all happens though is somewhat outside our scientific understanding, and of course something like testosterone levels affects each man very differently.

“Two men of the same age may have exactly the same testosterone level but feel very different physically, emotionally, and sexually,” says Ian Kerner, CNN’s sex counselor. “I try to work with men to re-define sex in a way that works with their situation.”

What is clear is that for whatever reason – men are taking some big biological punches from modern life.

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soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. Newo

    not surprising. Congrats guys, you're officially becoming obsolete.

    August 30, 2011 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • anonymous

      Not according to your mom

      August 30, 2011 at 22:54 | Report abuse |
  2. graciegal

    soy is estrogen, pesticides mimic estrogen, BPA mimics estrogen, tea tree oil mimics estrogen.... is the question really that hard to answer?

    August 31, 2011 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MeP

      Plus, increasing birth control levels in water where there was never any before. I say stick to condo ms, don't taint our water supply.

      September 6, 2011 at 03:29 | Report abuse |
  3. Sarah

    "To top it all off: there’s evidence that the percentage of babies born male is declining."
    ...don't know about the Bible, since it casts many predictions right, but it's something certainly mentioned in the Hadith ["Prophet's sayings"] in Islam – that there will come a time where there will be 50 women for every 1 man.
    ... as a bonus, Hadith also make mention that as time progresses, girls will mature faster (i.e. menstruate earlier), and that's something studies seem to confirm too...

    August 31, 2011 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy

      Isaiah 4:1 said 7 women shall take hold of 1 man, but somehow I got the idea what it would be a result of many men being killed off by wars...

      September 11, 2011 at 16:15 | Report abuse |
    • Steven Clark

      Very well said Sara, I also wanted to add that once that happens, he also added that the world would near to its judgement day, It is one of the signs of Judgement day, correct me if i am wrong.

      http://www.genericpharmacyrx.net

      January 25, 2012 at 00:39 | Report abuse |
  4. brea

    Can they explain why.

    September 1, 2011 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. SfDeal

    Some good Health Places in San Francisco:

    http://www.spapanda.com/

    September 3, 2011 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Can-Do

    So much for Evolution!! hahaha.

    September 7, 2011 at 21:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. AntiFeminazi

    Its feminism

    September 12, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. ick

    I love it when you guys play dumb. We have birthcontrol pills getting into our water supply, BPA's in most of our canned food,soy in just about every food imaginable...read your labels..you'll see soy soy soy soy.
    It's amazing men even exist!

    September 28, 2011 at 16:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Digital camera models - what fun ; a pair of easy ways to amazing digital wedding party pictures ; utilize a reduced photographic camera angle to be able to shoot your own digital camera landscaping photo sits funny

    February 12, 2012 at 08:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Elisa

    Girls are coming into prtbuey at earlier and earlier ages as a result of all the estorgem mimickers, this increases there risk for breast and other female cancers, both boys and girls are looking more and more androgeneous and if testosterone levels keep dropping most men will be essentially sterile in 20 years or less.Government and medical researchers announc the plummeting results but neither them or mainstream media make a big deal out of it. What's going on?

    March 3, 2012 at 20:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 7, 2012 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
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    May 4, 2012 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
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    May 4, 2012 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Realist

    C'mon guys-the US President is commited to Misandry. Heck-no money for men's health, no money for homeless men (even though they represent the vast majority of the homeless), free birth control for women, hundreds of non-combatant men killed in drone attacks but listed as "terrorists" because they are between 18 and 49 (breeding age), 75 percent of the wealth in the US owned by women, shorter life spans for men...

    Men have been sold down the river-and we do whatever we can to ensure that there are fewer of them in the overall population and that they are more easily controlled every year. What? You think giving free birth control to women and thereby INCREASING the estrogen in our water supply will HELP men? And you think the US government DOESN'T KNOW this? Really?

    It's called gendercide-and it's being actively waged against men by the US government with the support of NOW

    July 18, 2012 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.