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Volume 14, Issue 1 (January 2012) 14, 121–129; 10.1038/aja.2011.72

Psychological and social aspects of infertility in men: an overview of the evidence and implications for psychologically informed clinical care and future research

Jane RW Fisher and Karin Hammarberg

Jean Hailes Research Unit, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Clayton, Vic. 3168, Australia

Correspondence: Professor J Fisher, (jane.fisher@monash.edu)

Received 22 June 2011; Revised 26 October 2011; Accepted 28 October 2011; Published online 19 December 2011


Research concerning the psychosocial aspects of infertility and infertility treatment focuses more often on women than men. The aim of this review was to synthesize the English-language evidence related to the psychological and social aspects of infertility in men and discuss the implications of these reports for clinical care and future research. A structured search identified 73 studies that reported data concerning the desire for fatherhood and the psychological and social aspects of diagnosis, assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatment and unsuccessful treatment among men with fertility difficulties. The studies are diverse in conceptualisation, design, setting and data collection, but the findings were reasonably consistent. These studies indicated that fertile and infertile childless men of reproductive age have desires to experience parenthood that are similar to those of their female counterparts; in addition, diagnosis and initiation of treatment are associated with elevated infertility-specific anxiety, and unsuccessful treatment can lead to a state of lasting sadness. However, rates of clinically significant mental health problems among this patient population are no higher than in the general population. Infertile men who are socially isolated, have an avoidant coping style and appraise stressful events as overwhelming, are more vulnerable to severe anxiety than men without these characteristics. Men prefer oral to written treatment information and prefer to receive emotional support from infertility clinicians rather than from mental health professionals, self-help support groups or friends. Nevertheless, structured, facilitated psycho-educational groups that are didactic but permit informal sharing of experiences might be beneficial. There are gaps in knowledge about factors governing seeking, persisting with and deciding to cease treatment; experiences of invasive procedures; parenting after assisted conception; adoption and infertility-related grief and shame among men. Few resource-constrained countries have any data concerning male experiences of infertility.

Keywords: assisted reproductive technologies; male infertility; psychologically-informed clinical care; psychosocial aspects

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Asian Journal of Andrology CN 31-1795/R ISSN 1008-682X  Copyright © 2023  Shanghai Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences.  All rights reserved.