COVID-19 disproportionately affects males especially those who are older and more socio-economically disadvantaged. This study assessed wellbeing outcomes among men’s shed members (Shedders) in Ireland at baseline (T1), 3 (T2), 6 (T3) and 12 months (T4) in response to a 10-week health promotion program ‘Sheds for Life’ (SFL). Two cohorts participated in SFL commencing in March and September 2019. This study compares the T3 findings from one cohort carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic [COVID cohort (n = 185)] with T3 findings from a comparator cohort [pre-COVID cohort (n = 195)], completed pre-COVID-19. Questionnaires assessing wellbeing [life satisfaction, mental health, loneliness, physical activity (PA), self-rated health and other lifestyle measures] were analyzed in both cohorts T1, T2 and T3. Self-rated Health and life satisfaction decreased in the COVID cohort at T3 (p < 0.001), while loneliness scores increased (p < 0.0005). Higher loneliness scores were correlated with lower health ratings, life satisfaction and PA during COVID-19 (p < 0.001). Days PA decreased in the COVID cluster at T3 from T2 (p < 0.01) with those in urban areas reporting lower activity levels than rural areas (p < 0.05). Those sufficiently active at baseline managed to maintain PA during COVID-19 while those not meeting guidelines were more likely to report decreases (p < 0.001). Shedders experiencing COVID-19 restrictions are at an increased risk of poorer wellbeing and increased levels of loneliness. Support and guidance are needed to safely encourage this cohort back into men’s sheds, settings that protect against loneliness and positively promote health and wellbeing.

Lay summary

The COVID-19 pandemic will have wide-reaching implications on wellbeing, particularly on those who are older and more vulnerable. Evidence also suggests that COVID-19 disproportionately affects males. This study aimed to understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on men in the setting of Men’s Sheds in Ireland. Two cohorts of men who were participating in a 10-week health and wellbeing program (Sheds for Life) at different stages were followed over time. At 6 months follow-up the first Cohort had not experienced COVID-19 whereas the second cohort was actively experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. We measured wellbeing using questionnaires, comparing both groups of men for differences. We found that the men who were experiencing COVID-19 had lower self-rated health, physical activity and life satisfaction as well as higher rates of loneliness, with those who were more lonely reporting lower wellbeing scores. We also found that men in rural areas were more physically active during COVID-19 and that those were not active were more likely to become more inactive during COVID-19. This study suggests that support and guidance is needed to safely encourage this cohort back into Men’s Sheds, settings that protect against loneliness and positively promote health and wellbeing.

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