The Impact of Phone Use on Sperm Quality: A Controversial Reality

In this video, Andrew Huberman discusses the potential negative effects of phone use on sperm quality and testosterone levels. He cites a systematic review and meta-analysis that suggests mobile phones emit radio frequency electromagnetic waves, which can be absorbed by the human body and have adverse effects on reproductive function. The study found that carrying a phone in the front pocket can reduce sperm count and motility. While the exact biological mechanisms are unclear, Huberman suggests keeping the phone away from the groin to mitigate potential risks. He also mentions the ongoing controversy and need for further research on the topic.

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Key Insights:

  • Phone use, specifically the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and heat-related effects of smartphones, can have a detrimental effect on sperm quality and testosterone levels.
  • Phones emit radio frequency electromagnetic waves (RF EMWs) that can be absorbed by the human body and have potential adverse effects on various biological tissues, including the reproductive system.
  • Carrying your phone in your front pocket can reduce testosterone levels and sperm count, significantly affecting sperm quality. It is suggested to avoid carrying phones in the front pocket, especially for males seeking to conceive.
  • Even if Wi-Fi or cellular access is turned off, heat-related effects of the phone can still affect sperm quality by altering the temperature of the testicles.
  • Avoiding close proximity to the phone is generally better for sperm quality, but since smartphones are a common part of daily life for most people, completely avoiding carrying phones may not be practical.
  • Data from a meta-analysis indicate that the decline in sperm quality is not necessarily related to the time of usage but is primarily a result of using mobile phones in general.
  • Owning a smartphone is likely to diminish sperm quality, but it is possible to mitigate the effects by keeping the phone away from the groin or as far as possible.
  • Both radiofrequency waves and heat from the phone can disrupt the Leydig cells of the testes and testosterone production, which is important for sperm production.
  • While the exact biological variables and mechanisms behind these effects are not fully understood, it is generally advisable to avoid carrying the phone in the front or back pocket.
  • This discussion focuses on the effects of smartphones‘ EMFs and heat-related effects on sperm quality, and future episodes will address other aspects such as Bluetooth and various aspects of EMFs.


Now, a topic that is sure to be a bit controversial– But it really shouldn’t be because the data, At least to me, are very clear– Is this issue of phone use and sperm quality. Now, this can open up a whole array of issues related To things like EMFs, and you’ve got people Out there who have ideas about 5G and all of this stuff. That is not what this discussion is about. The discussion I’m about to have with you relates to the fact That the electromagnetic fields and the heat-related effects Of smartphones can indeed have a detrimental effect On sperm quality and, yes, indeed, on testosterone levels As well.

I’m going to refer you to a paper. We will link it in the show note captions. The title of this paper is „Effects of Mobile Phone Usage on Sperm Quality. No time-dependent relationship on usage. A systematic review and updated meta-analysis.“ This is the paper that came out in 2021 And talks about the fact that phones emit a radio Frequency electromagnetic waves, which Are called RF, radio frequency, EMWs, electromagnetic waves, At a low level between 80 and 2,200 megahertz that Can be absorbed by the human body– we know this. This is not controversial– and have potential adverse effects On brain, heart, endocrine system, And reproductive function. That has been established. Keep in mind, there is basically no controversy That radio frequency waves and EMFs Can have a negative impact on biological tissues. The question is, how intense are those radiofrequency waves And EMFs, and how detrimental are those On those biological tissues? It’s a matter of degrees. But there is very little controversy as to Whether or not they have an effect on biological tissues. And I’m aware of absolutely zero data showing That they can have a positive effect on biological tissues.

Since what we’re mainly talking about now are smartphones, We want to separate out the heat effects of smartphones From the EMFs related to the fact That they are Wi-Fi smartphones or they’re Using cellular towers and Wi-Fi, one Or the other or a combination. So there are a number of different things in the phone That could be detrimental. We need to separate those out. Why? Well, because you might have heard That carrying your phone in your pocket Can reduce your testosterone levels and sperm count. And guess what, that is true. The data contained within this meta-analyses And other meta-analyses clearly point out That it can reduce sperm count and maybe testosterone levels Significantly, but certainly sperm count and motility Significantly. It reduces sperm quality.

So should you avoid putting your phone in your pocket, certainly Your front pocket? I would suggest yes, if you are somebody Who is seeking to conceive. I’m not somebody who is going to stop using my smartphone. I don’t expect anyone’s going to stop using their smartphone. The question is, should you carry it in your front pocket If you’re a male? I think, to be on the safe side, the answer Is probably avoid doing that too much of the time. Ideally, don’t do it at all.

Then people will say, well, what if I turn off the Wi-Fi Or I turn off the cellular access? Then is it still a problem? Well, it’s a problem due to the heat-related effects. And then people say, well, I don’t actually Feel the heat of the phone. It doesn’t get that warm. But the temperature effects of the phone, it turns out, Are enough, even under conditions in which people Don’t report it to be uncomfortably warm, that it can Change the temperature milieu of the testicle In ways that can diminish sperm quality. How much and how that relates to fertility And healthy pregnancy, not clear, but since we’re Talking about things to avoid, if your goal Is to have a healthy fertilization and pregnancy, Well, then, by all means, just don’t carry it In your front pocket.

Then people say, well, what about back pocket Or what about backpack? Look, it’s very clear that avoiding Being too close to the phone is probably better for your sperm Quality than putting the phone very close to your testicles Or anywhere else on your body. But it’s also the reality that most people are going To carry a phone nowadays. It’s just the reality. I think the current estimates– and it’s discussed in this Paper– that 90% of the human population has a smartphone– 90%, which is incredible– the adult population, of course. Although a lot of kids have them, as well.

So this paper goes on to detail a number of different studies And outcomes from studies. But basically what they find– and here I’m paraphrasing– Is that the data indicate that sperm quality declines When people start using a mobile phone. So from the point they start using a mobile phone, Regardless of the usage time– this is important. It used to be thought that it was four hours a day or more Of holding your phone or having that phone close to your body Was going to diminish sperm quality. It turns out that it’s not related to usage time. That’s even the title of the paper. It’s just the fact that people are Using mobile phones is reducing sperm count and quality. That’s the reality.

Is it entirely responsible for all the reductions in sperm Quality and maybe even the reductions In testosterone levels that we’re observing from decade To decade going forward? I doubt that’s the case. Is it likely to be one of the major players? I’ve got my bet on the fact that it is based on the data That I’ve observed. And so if any of you would like to peruse The data in this meta-analysis, they’re quite good. This study looked at 18 studies that include 4,280 samples. They were able to separate out the radio Frequency versus the heat effects, And they were able to eliminate this time of usage variable, That previously we thought if you were exposed To a lot of cellphone contact, then It was far worse than if you were exposed to a little bit. Turns out, if you’re exposed to any at all, You’re going to diminish sperm quality.

What does that mean? Does that mean that no matter what You do, if you own a smartphone, that you’re going To diminish sperm quality? I think the short answer is yes, but that you can mitigate it. What might you do? Well, keeping your phone away from your groin or as far From your groin as possible if you’re A male who’s wishing to conceive and maybe even a male Who’s wishing to maximize his

testosterone levels because it does appear that radiofrequency waves and the heat From the phone– So both of those factors, independently and together, Of course– Can disrupt the Leydig cells of the testes And the production

of testosterone, And intratesticular testosterone is Important for sperm production. The exact biological variables leading to all of these changes Isn’t exactly clear. But if you’re like me, you say, OK, Probably not a problem for most males to carry their phone. But probably best to not carry it in the front pocket. Maybe even avoid carrying it in the back pocket as well.

Again, in the future, we will have an episode All about Bluetooth. We’ll talk about various aspects of EMFs. It’s a super interesting data set. And it’s a data set for which there’s a ton of controversy. It’s really interesting, however, And there are more and more quality data coming out All the time. And I think, going forward, we are Going to see that, indeed, there are some negative effects Of smartphones related to both the radio frequency Transmission and the fact that they generate heat. And in general, heat is not good for biological tissues.