Researchers at the University of East Anglia are launching a new project to see how ‘Men’s Sheds’ can improve mental health and loneliness.
Men’s Sheds are community spaces for men and women to come together, work shoulder-to-shoulder on projects, learn and share skills and build social connections.
The UEA team will investigate how being part of a Shed community impacts mental health and loneliness. And they are looking for ‘Shedders’ around the UK to take part.
They hope to better understand the role of social prescribing - when health professionals refer patients to support in the community to improve their health and wellbeing.
The project has been funded by the UCL Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health Network and will be carried out in collaboration with Men’s Shed and the UK Men’s Shed Association.
Lead researcher Dr Bryony Porter, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “Over one million older adults are chronically lonely and loneliness is associated with a range of negative physical and mental health problems.
“Men’s Sheds aim to bring people together to tackle loneliness by making environments where men and women, but often older men, come together in a social space, doing practical activities like woodwork.
“They are really unique places and the activities are similar to those of garden sheds, but for groups to enjoy together. They’ve been set up to tackle loneliness and they address a big a gap in the provision of community services for men, particularly older men.”
The research team will look at the best ways to measure how being part of the Shed community helps with loneliness, mental health and wellbeing. Shedders (existing Shed members) will undertake two online questionnaires, and some will be invited to be interviewed.
Dr Porter said: “We want to understand the impact of being part of a Shed on mental health and loneliness, and also the role of social prescribing.”
“We also want to know more about the people who attend Sheds, their motivations, the benefits and who this approach may help,” she added.
Charlie Bethel from UK Men’s Shed Association said: “We are delighted to be working with UEA’s School of Health Sciences and very grateful to the UCL Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health Network for their tremendous support on this project. This project will provide a wealth of knowledge and insight to communicate the intrinsic value of Sheds to men, women and society.
“Men’s Sheds are so diverse and each one meets the needs within their communities, understanding impact and people’s motivations better will help us formulate new approaches to encouraging the development of more Sheds and more people joining Sheds.
“This work, led by Dr Bryony Porter will certainly help us to understand ourselves more. It will help us develop, support and build a stronger movement throughout the UK.”
If you are part of a Shed in the UK, you can take part in this study by signing up here: https://forms.office.com/r/9J0Bwzxufb.