Men ‘gripped by loneliness’ during coronavirus pandemic

Isolation takes toll during pandemic, according to report from men’s sheds association

 Woodturning at Louth Community Men’s Sheds, in Dundalk. File photograph: The Irish Times

Woodturning at Louth Community Men’s Sheds, in Dundalk. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

Loneliness among men has soared during the coronavirus pandemic, according to research conducted on behalf of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association.

Members describing themselves as lonely was at 1.4 per cent prior to Shed closures during the pandemic and had risen to 29.7 per cent a year later.

It emphasised “the importance of men’s sheds to combat social isolation among Ireland’s men”, said the association.

The review, The Sheds for Life Impact Report, by Aisling McGrath of Waterford Institute of Technology and the Irish Research Council, was unveiled virtually on Monday by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

It involved 421 men, aged between 27 and 90, at 22 sheds in Kildare, Waterford, Limerick and Louth.

The report’s introduction notes that much of the bad health experienced by men “results from preventable lifestyle and other risk factors” related “to complex biopsychosocial responses such as gendered practices and behaviours relating to masculinity”.

Generally, men in Ireland die 3.6 years before women, with the Irish man’s lifespan averaging 80.4 years to an Irish woman’s 84 years, according to 2019 figures” noted the report.

“Men are more likely to die prematurely from cardiovascular disease than women, more likely to be overweight, twice as likely to have diabetes, have a higher chance of dying from non-gender specific cancers, and are four-and-half times more likely to die from suicide,” it said.

Sheds for Life is a 10-week health promotion programme developed by the association and focusing on physical activity, healthy eating, mental health and other health and wellbeing components.

Mental wellbeing

The study showed that, one year later, there were significant increases in engagement by men with, for instance, those meeting physical activity guidelines increasing from 31.2 per cent to 51.5 per cent. Increases in mental wellbeing were up by an average 17 per cent while those men who reported feeling comfortable having a conversation about their mental health was up by 20 per cent

“A year later, the research results show significant increases in engagement with what sometimes can be a hard-to-reach group of men, increases in their physical activity levels, mental well-being, and understanding of their own health, an increased sense of belonging, improved healthy eating, and improved online skills,” said association chief executive Enda Egan.

There are 450 men’s sheds on the island of Ireland with more than 10,000 men visiting a Shed every week, coronavirus allowing.