Male factor infertility and risk of death: a nationwide record-linkage study

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STUDY QUESTION: What is the risk of death among men with oligospermia, unspecified male factor and azoospermia in the years following fertility treatment? SUMMARY ANSWER: No significantly elevated risk was observed among men with oligospermia and unspecified male factor, while an increased risk was found among men with azoospermia. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Previous studies have shown associations between male factor infertility and risk of death, but these studies have relied on internal reference groups and the risk of death according to type of male infertility is not well characterized. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: In this prospective record-linkage cohort study, we identified men who had undergone medically assisted reproduction (MAR) between 1994 and 2015. Data was linked to the Danish causes of death register and sociodemographic registers through personal identification numbers assigned to all Danish citizens at birth. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Men that had undergone MAR in Denmark (MAR Cohort; n = 64 563) were identified from the Danish IVF register, which includes data on whether infertility was due to male factor. For each man in the MAR cohort, five age-matched men who became fathers without fertility treatment were selected from the general population (non-MAR fathers; n = 322 108). Men that could not adequately be tracked in the Danish CPR register (n = 1259) and those that were censored prior to study entry (n = 993) were excluded, leaving a final population of 384 419 men. Risk of death was calculated by Cox regression analysis with age as an underlying timeline and adjustments for educational attainment, civil status and year of study entry. The risk of death was compared among men with and without male factor infertility identified from the IVF register (internal comparisons) as well as to the non-MAR fathers (external comparison). MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: The risk of death between the MAR cohort (all men, regardless of infertility) and the non-MAR fathers was comparable [hazard ratio (HR), 1.07; 95% CI, 0.98-1.15]. When the MAR cohort was limited to infertile men, these men were at increased risk of death [HR, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.12-1.44]. However, when stratified by type of male factor infertility, men with azoospermia had the highest risk of death, which persisted when in both the internal [HR, 2.30; 95% CI, 1.54-3.41] and external comparison [HR, 3.32; 95% CI, 2.02-5.40]. No significantly elevated risk of death was observed among men with oligospermia [HR, 1.14; 95% CI, 0.87-1.50] and unspecified male factor [HR, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.75-1.61] compared with the non-MAR fathers. The same trends were observed for the internal comparison. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Duration of the follow-up was limited and there is limited generalizability to infertile men who do not seek fertility treatment. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Using national health registers, we found an increased risk of death among azoospermic men while no increased risk was found among men with other types of infertility. For the azoospermic men, further insight into causal pathways is needed to identify options for monitoring and prevention. 


  • Clara Helene Glazer
  • Michael L. Eisenberg
  • Sandra Søgaard Tøttenborg
  • Aleksander Giwercman
  • Esben Meulengracht Flachs
  • Elvira Vaclavik Bräuner
  • Ditte Vassard
  • Anja Pinborg
  • Lone Schmidt
  • Jens Peter Bonde
External organisations
  • Bispebjerg Hospital
  • Stanford University
  • University of Copenhagen
  • Copenhagen University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine
  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


  • azoospermia, epidemiology, infertility, male factor infertility, medically assisted reproduction, mortality, oligospermia, register-based record linkage study
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2266-2273
Number of pages8
JournalHuman reproduction (Oxford, England)
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov 4
Publication categoryResearch