Recession Linked to Rise in Vasectomies, Study Suggests

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An economic downturn may drive more men to obtain vasectomies to prevent having unintended children, a new study suggests.

The researchers interviewed about 1,700 men who consulted doctors about vasectomies at a clinic in Wisconsin between 2005 and 2012. About 1,450 of men went through with the procedure.

The results showed an increase in the rate of vasectomies performed each year, which coincided with economic downturn starting in 2007. The increasing trend of vasectomies seemed to level off at the end of the recession in 2012, according to the study presented today (Oct. 15) at the meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

The "increase in vasectomy rates mirrors the decrease in average income, which could be taken as a measure of economic health, said study researcher Dr. Anand Shridharani, a practicing urologist in Milwaukee.

"Vasectomy rates went up as income went down, suggesting they are connected," Shridharani said.

However, comparing the men who asked for a vasectomy before the stock market crash in 2008 to those who had the procedure after, the results didn't show a difference in how old men were or how many children they had before they inquired about getting a vasectomy, the researchers said.

There was anecdotal evidence that the recession was influencing more Americans to decide against having another child with abortions and vasectomies, but there hadn't been any studies to suggest such trend exists.

“There is much folklore associated with the relationship between economic conditions and reproduction. It is nice to have some actual data,” Grace Centola, president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, said in a statement.

The researchers said future studies should include people from across the nation to confirm whether a relationship exists between the economic status of the community and people's decisions about the number of children to have.  [10 Scientific Tips for Raising Happy Kids]

In 2012, the estimated cost of raising a child for 18 years in a middle-income family was $241,080, which is 23 percent higher than the average cost in 1960, which was $25,229, or $195,690 in 2012 dollars, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"I believe the economy plays a role in trying to prevent having unintended children because of the economic burden of having a child," Shridharani said.

It is also possible that factors other than the economy contribute to the increasing trend in vasectomies, Shridharani said. For example, people may have become more educated about various options for contraception, including vasectomy.

Email Bahar Gholipour. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

Bahar Gholipour
Staff Writer
Bahar Gholipour is a staff reporter for Live Science covering neuroscience, odd medical cases and all things health. She holds a Master of Science degree in neuroscience from the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, and has done graduate-level work in science journalism at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has worked as a research assistant at the Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives at ENS.