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Men's Sheds and other social activities specific to men may have a positive effect on their mental health and well-being

Milligan C, Nearly D, Payne S, Hanratty B, Irwin P, Dowrick C.  Older men and social activity: A scoping review of Men's Sheds and other gendered interventions  Ageing & Society. 2016; 36(5): 895–923.

Review question

      What is the role and impact of gender-based activity interventions (for example, Men’s Sheds) on the health and well-being of older men?

Background

      While an aging population is an almost universal phenomenon, women, on average, outlive men across all population groups and cultures. Linked to debates about health and gender in later life is a growing concern about the health impacts of loneliness and social isolation. This in turn has prompted the public and volunteer sectors to look to develop a range of social activity interventions specifically targeted at older men. Men’s Sheds are growing in popularity as one means of promoting social interaction amongst older men. The authors defined the men’s shed has “a communal space for older men to meet, socialise, learn new skills and voluntarily take part in practical activities with other men”.

      This scoping review examined the effects of Men’s Sheds and other gender-specific interventions on the health and well-being of older men, as well as the components of effective interventions.

How the review was done

      The search strategy used to gather relevant literature incorporated electronic and hand searches of publications from 1990 to 2013. Search terms relating to older people, men, activity, health and well-being were used for the review.

      Included studies needed to contain some measure of the impact of the social-activity intervention on health, quality of life or well-being of older men or their families.

      A total of 8,117 records were identified during searches, and 31 studies were included for the final analysis after assessing their eligibility.

       The authors did not report a source of funding for this review.

What the researchers found

      There was limited evidence of any positive effects on physical health of Men’s Sheds or other gender-specific interventions.

      There was more extensive evidence of positive effects on the mental health of those participating in Men’s Sheds, compared to people taking part in other social activities.

      The consistency and frequency of such reports suggests that older men find benefits to their mental health from participating in social and physical activities in Men’s Sheds, due to a greater sense of belonging and purpose in their lives. Similarly, there is some support in the literature regarding the beneficial effects of Men’s Sheds on the social well-being of older men.

      The researchers found that successful Men’s Sheds were in a suitable location, provided a wide range of activities over extended opening hours, enjoyed strong local support and had a skilled coordinator who enabled its smooth operation.

      A variety of theoretical frameworks were used in the studies to provide an underpinning for analysis, and to develop a deeper understanding of why these types of gender-specific interventions may work. This renders comparisons difficult across studies and presents a challenge in identifying the direction of causality between social activity, health and well-being.

Conclusion

      This scoping review presented some positive, albeit limited evidence that Men’s Sheds and other gender-specific social activities may have a positive effect on the mental health and well-being of older men.

      Qualitative data provided valuable insights about how and why complex psycho-social activities can benefit older men, but there was a lack of validated health and well-being measures utilized in the studies.

      Key components of successful interventions included accessibility, range of activities, local support and skilled coordination.

      The limited number and variable quality of studies available for synthesis also reflects the scarcity of interventions aimed at older men.




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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

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