A prospective study was carried out on 1005 male volunteers residing in the province of Barcelona. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire concerning their health status and lifestyle, and provided a semen sample for analysis. Sperm concentration and percentages of motile, and normal forms were evaluated. The effect of smoking, alcohol consumption, stress and previous disease on semen parameters was also evaluated. Normal parameters were found in 22% of volunteers and sperm counts and/or percentage motility below normal threshold values were found in 78%. Asthenozoospermia detected in 62% and oligozoospermia in 17% of volunteers. No statistically significant association was found between semen quality and age, with the exception of a decrease in semen volume (P = 0.04) and progressive motility (P = 0.01). No statistically significant differences in semen parameters were found between smokers and non-smokers or between males who consumed alcohol versus those that did not. However, stress had a negative effect on sperm concentration. In conclusion, the prevalence of normal semen parameters in the study population evaluated was markedly lower than that reported for the general population (60-70%). Since sperm concentration did not appear to decrease with age, the decrease observed in the last decades may be related to exposure to environmental toxicants during the fetal period, as previously suggested.