Building connections, boosting well-being

Health & Social Causes Living well with long-term conditions
13 February 2024

Scottish Mens Sheds: Fostering healthier lives for men across Scotland

Rowan Boase

Springburn Park Men’s Shed. Photo by Scott Richmond.

Enabling people with long-term conditions to live well is one of our interests under our Health and Social Causes strand. The Scottish Men’s Sheds Association explain how they are supporting the Men’s Sheds movement around Scotland to help men with time on their hands to stay connected and healthy.

Key learnings:

  • Being isolated or lonely is bad for our health and wellbeing – and there are distinct challenges for men in our society.
  • Men’s Sheds provide locally-run spaces across Scotland and beyond where men can connect with others and find purpose in shared activities.
  • The Scottish Men’s Sheds Association provides practical support and a voice for Sheds across Scotland.
  • Despite huge growth in the movement, it can be challenging to sustain local Sheds and their infrastructure, particularly in the context of the cost-of-living crisis.

I am very open about the fact that I have made several attempts to end my life. The Shed and my newfound Shedder friends have definitely saved my life without a doubt.  I have found real, meaningful friendship and these men don’t realise how much they have done for me.

This quote from a member of Garnock Valley Men’s Shed illustrates how loneliness and isolation provide a significant threat to our health and wellbeing, and how Men’s Sheds can make a difference. In our culture, it can be particularly challenging for men to find ways inter-generationally to stay connected to others in healthy environments, especially as they get older, or when long-term health conditions force them to give up work or hobbies.

A place to find friendship and purpose

Men’s Sheds are a global grassroots movement seeking to change this. Jason Schroeder, founder and CEO of the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association (SMSA), explains more:

Men’s Sheds are a place for men to come together in a safe place, to socialise with a purpose. Men can end up self-isolating at home, but the Shed gets us out of the house, and offers a range of social healthy interactions.  And when men get into an environment where they can speak about what they’re interested in, they start relaxing – and friendships and camaraderie are built.

Sheds take many forms – from portacabins to self-built new buildings – and while some are kitted-out with tools and workshops, others are simply friendly spaces where men of all ages can meet and spend time together on a regular basis. Some shedders – as their members are known – enjoy spending time working together on things like woodwork and craft projects. Others enjoy activities from recycling, gardening, cooking, to painting and more. Sheds are a social space to be used in whatever way the shedders choose.

A study from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2021 found that shedders reported increases in health seeking behaviours, improved perspectives on and management of their personal health, and had an increased ability to overcome illness and recover.

“The beauty is that it’s not prescriptive what happens in the Shed, says Jason. “There’s no set agenda – activities evolve with the membership, ensuring the movement’s longevity. The shedders are in control – it’s for the men, by the men.”

Supporting Sheds across the network

The SMSA is the central support hub for Men’s Sheds across Scotland, with over 200 Shed groups currently in its network. It’s team comprising of their Patron Sir Harry Burns, eight trustees and six staff provides practical support and resources to both established Sheds or those just starting up. Additionally, they advocate for the Men’s Shed movement, representing member concerns and influencing national policy discussions on men’s health and wellbeing.

Springburn Park Men’s Shed. Photo by Scott Richmond.

“The SMSA has been a wonderful support and a great centre of information and advice. We and some other local Sheds would not exist without their help steering us in the right direction—through the obstacles and bureaucracy that is thrown at you especially when starting something new—and enabling us to become self-sufficient.”

Kinross and District Men’s Shed

The Foundation has supported SMSA with unrestricted funding since 2018 to help them perform this important infrastructure role. Our current three-year grant of £30,000 per year runs until 2026.

Sustaining Sheds for the long-term

Whilst still supporting new Sheds to set up, SMSA is increasingly advising Sheds on how to sustain themselves. This is not always easy, especially in the current environment.

“Post-COVID the guys are tired and rundown and, as some get older, it can be difficult to find people to take over their roles,” explains Jason. “It can be tough to sustain a voluntary-run organisation. Sheds are grappling with rising costs and wondering how to stay afloat during a cost-of-living crisis.”

In this difficult environment, behind-the-scenes network organisations like SMSA play an important role in supporting local charities whilst struggling with their own limited resources and rising costs.

Despite the challenges, SMSA remains dedicated to its mission: ensuring every man in Scotland has the opportunity to connect at a local Shed, ultimately fostering healthier lives for men across the country.

Springburn Park Men’s Shed. Photo by Scott Richmond.


Subscribe to the William Grant Foundation newsletter

To receive occasional updates on the work of the Foundation and our partners


We will use the personal details you provide here to send you updates and news in the form of an occasional newsletter. We will not use your details for any other purpose.

Developed by mtc.