Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Men's Sheds make men healthier, new report shows

 The Men’s Sheds health initiatives increase men’s confidence, self-worth and sense of wellbeing by providing an environment for men that is appealing, safe and socially acceptable, indicates new research by Leeds Beckett University.

As regular readers know, Men’s Sheds began in Australia, and the first England-based Shed was established in 2009. Their aim is to bring men (often of retirement age) together around practical tasks on a regular basis. They offer men a place to share skills, learn informally, pursue individual and community projects, and achieve a sense of purpose and social interaction. Many Men's Sheds focus on activities like woodwork and metalwork, with health and wellbeing a subsidiary outcome. 
The study, by Steven Markham, Lecturer and Researcher in the School of Health and Community Studies, found that by being given the resources to help others, men felt more connected to their local communities and a greater sense of purpose.

Through in-depth interviews Shed organisers and participants, Steven found that the Men’s Shed encouraged men to talk and share in a friendly environment. Men were able to be themselves and communicate with humour in a non-judgmental way.

“Men die an average of 3.7 years younger than women and suffer more chronic conditions," he said,  "topping the death rates for 15 of the leading causes of death. My research has implications for the development of new Men's Sheds and regarding the way health, social care and wellbeing services can successfully appeal to men and improve health and wellbeing outcomes.

“Evidence exists that Men's Sheds improve health and wellbeing, however less is known about how they achieve these improved health and wellbeing outcomes. The Shed I investigated primarily focuses on wellbeing and has introduced other subsidiary activities, such as volunteering on community projects, foodbanks, and woodwork. They meet two evenings a week and on a Saturday daytime.”

The men in Steven’s study reported that they felt more secure, emotionally connected and more connected to their local communities as a result of their time spent at the Shed. These things led to reduced social isolation and brought a sense of meaning to the men's lives. They enjoyed and wanted to help other people. “This is a key point," adds Steven, "because men often do not want to be the recipients of 'services'. Through the Men's Shed, the men were given an avenue, the resources and encouragement to be able to help others. By doing so, this increased their confidence and sense of self-worth and improved their wellbeing.”

Steven will present his new research at the British Sociological Association (BSA) Medical Sociology Group annual conference at Aston University, Birmingham, today.  ----------------------------------------------------
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