Norfolk study to look to benefits of men’s sheds in combating isolation

Members of the Men's Shed in Beccles. 

Members of the Men's Shed in Beccles. - Credit: Archant

Norwich researchers have launched a study into how successful men's sheds are in combatting isolation and loneliness. 

A University of East Anglia (UEA) team hopes to better understand the role of social prescribing - when health professionals refer patients to support in the community.

Men learning practical skills at the new project, Norwich Men's Shed. George Michie, left, and Julia

Men learning practical skills at the new project, Norwich Men's Shed. George Michie, left, and Julian Phillips. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

Men’s sheds have gained popularity as communal spaces which bring people together to share skills, tools and banter while working shoulder-to-shoulder on projects, learning and sharing skills and building social connections.

Norfolk currently has 16 sheds already in operation across the county, with another eight in development and several others being discussed.

Norwich Men’s Shed, which started as a small self-funding club, recently appealed to find larger premises because increasing numbers of members meant it had outgrown its workshop at Pitt Street.

The UEA project will look at the best ways to measure how being a shed group member helps with loneliness, mental health and wellbeing. 

An Age UK survey has found more than one million people over 65 in the UK are often or always lonely. Two-fifths said their main form of company was television.

Members of Norwich Men's Shed with a model Sopwith Camel they made.

Members of Norwich Men's Shed with a model Sopwith Camel they made. - Credit: Roberta Wood

Lead researcher Dr Bryony Porter, from UEA’s school of health sciences, said: “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.

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“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 bigger gap in the provision of community services for men, particularly older men.”

Local shedders are being invited to take part in the study being carried out in collaboration with the UK Men’s Shed Association.

Charlie Bethel, from the association, said: “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.”

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