THEY were launched in Australia more than 20 years ago to help reduce loneliness and help keep men well after retirement.

Professor Barry Golding's assertion that “Men don’t talk face to face, they talk shoulder to shoulder” was pivotal in the creation of Men's Sheds, where friendships are forged through volunteer-run sessions of woodwork, metalwork and gardening.

Now, eight years after the first was set up in Scotland, in 2013, a major study suggests they are delivering tangible benefits for both mental and physical health.

Research carried out by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and Age Scotland found that participants who were previously drinking heavily had reduced their alcohol intake after participating in sessions.

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There were improvements in diet and fitness - through the participation in physical work -  and men reported being less reliance on formal health visits such as GP appointments and medication to manage illnesses.

READ MORE: Health: Are men lagging behind in the health stakes? Six common issues and what to do about them 

The study participants said they treated the sessions like a job and felt a renewed sense of purpose.

Researchers interviewed 62 members from give sheds from across Scotland and across the demographic.

The average age of the Shed members studied was 67 years old, and although participants as young as 24 years old were interviewed, those attending were mainly older and retired.

"You find yourself looking up into the sky and thinking how long do I have before I'm up there?

Awareness of health concerns improved through talking to other men and through visits from health workers who give talks that aim to improve awareness of the diseases that lead to men having a lower average life expectancy than women at 77 compared to 81.

The 'shedders' also reported being better able to cope with illness with practical activities providing a positive distraction.

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However the study concluded that although health behaviours improved, Men's Sheds should not be seen as a replacement for more formal care.

They attract mainly older members, often with their own health issues related to ageing or long term disability, that limit their ability or willingness to look after others, particularly those with complex conditions such as dementia.

Some men reporting that setting up sheds had  been a "difficult task" particularly acquiring premises from public authorities, in a location that is fully accessible.

There are now more than 190 sheds in Scotland across a network of 1500 across the UK and Ireland and GCU has put together a toolkit ( which aims to help more communities set them up.

READ MORE: Glasgow's rich and poor life expectancy gap bigger now than 20 years ago 

"There's no doubt the Sheds are having a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of a hard to reach group of men," said Dr Dannielle Hutcheon, research associate at the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health at GCU.

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"Going to the Shed gives a lot of the men a sense of purpose, they treat it almost like a job. It gives them a sense of confidence and value in their lives that they didn't have before.

"The key to the success of the Men's Sheds is men's ability to talk 'shoulder to shoulder', while doing a task, rather than sitting face to face in a lunch club or a pub.

"It's a relaxed, informal, welcoming environment."

Men's Sheds re-opened for the first time since lockdown last week and researchers found the pandemic had led to a decline in the participants' health and wellbeing.

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"A lot of the Shedders we spoke to only left the house a couple of times a week to go to the shop or to go to the Men's Shed," said Dr Hutcheon. "That was the only social contact they had throughout the week.

"You can only imagine the effect of the coronavirus with people being stuck at home."





Case study 


FOR some, retirement is a chance to focus on neglected hobbies and enjoy a slower pace of life. However, research shows the loss of routine can be difficult for some, leading to anxiety, restlessness and loneliness.

Bill Core recalls feeling a sense of dread as he approached retirement.

"I remember sitting in the house fed-up, thinking to myself what is my life going to be like when I'm fully retired? What the hell am I going to do?"

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The 78-year-old, who worked in the furniture trade, said co-founding a Men's Shed in Barrhead gave him back a "purpose to get up in the morning."

The group was launched in 2014 at an industrial unit in the town and has grown to 58 regular members.

"It's fine in the summer if you can get out and do things but, in the winter, when the weather is bad, it can feel as if the walls are closing in.

"You find yourself looking up into the sky and thinking how long do I have before I'm up there?

"The Shed gave me a purpose to get up in the morning, it was a place to go to meet people like myself, keep busy, have a laugh and enjoy myself.

"The guys look forward to coming and arrive with a smile on their face and leave with a smile on their face. You get satisfaction from helping other people, from keeping minds active.

READ MORE: Early Covid symptoms differ between men and women, research shows 

"A lot of members had high powered jobs in the past, there's a real cross-section of society.

"I thoroughly enjoy making clocks from chunks of wood. I get an immense amount of satisfaction from it. Some of the stuff we've produced has been donated to local schools and nurseries, so the whole community is benefitting from the Shed.

"If anyone is sitting at home and thinking they would like to come along my advice would be put on your coat and do it. You won't regret it, it will change your life for the better."

The briefing paper - Sheds for Sustainable Development Project: Men’s Sheds as an alternative route for male health engagement - is published here