Delving into a bit of DIY is boosting the confidence, self-worth and wellbeing of a generation of men.
Rather than proving a source of frustration, new research by academics at Leeds Beckett University has found that the increasingly popular Men’s Sheds concept is building something special among groups of older men.
The initiative began in Australia with the aim of bringing men, often of retirement age, together around practical tasks on a regular basis – in the process boosting their health and wellbeing.
The first Men’s Sheds group spawned in England in Hartford in 2009 and the idea soon spread – there are currently several groups in West Yorkshire.
The concept links to the perception that male attributes can act as barriers to men reaching out for traditional support.
Steven Markham, lecturer and researcher in the School of Health and Community Studies at Leeds Beckett, launched the study which used in-depth interviews to learn about how the groups work and who they benefit.
“Men often do not want to be the recipients of ‘services’,” he said. “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.”
Mr Markham focused on one particular Men’s Sheds group, which aimed to improve wellbeing while introducing activities like volunteering on community projects, food banks and woodwork.
He found that the group encouraged men to talk and share through offering an environment that posed no threat to their masculinity, which helped them be themselves and communicate with humour in a space in which they did not feel judged.
It also emerged that by being given the resources to help others, men felt more connected to their local communities and had a greater sense of purpose.
Mr Markham added: “Men die an average of 3.7 years younger than women and suffer more chronic conditions, 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.”
The new research was presented at the British Sociological Association (BSA) Medical Sociology Group annual conference at Aston University in Birmingham last Wednesday.
Groups in West Yorkshire
Men in Sheds Leeds: Run by Groundwork Leeds, this group is open at the Environment and Business Centre in Morley every Monday to Thursday from 10am to 4pm. A new shed in Sheepscar has also opened. Call 0113 2380601 for details.
Kirklees Area Men’s Sheds: Working with Rural Action Yorkshire, with funding from Kirklees Council and the local NHS, four new Men’s Sheds groups are expected to open in the coming months. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.