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Fuel the debate about issues and opportunities across the industry. We’d love to hear from you – [email protected]

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 8
Can the sector help men find new friends to support their emotional and mental health? / photo: Shutterstock / Drazen Zigic
Can the sector help men find new friends to support their emotional and mental health?/ photo: Shutterstock / Drazen Zigic

As the sector continues to debate the pivot to active wellbeing there are clues cropping up all over the place about what this actually means. An article in The Guardian focusing on men and their inability to forge deep, meaningful friendship prompted me to post it on Linkedin proposing that our sector could play a part in addressing this situation.

The issue in a nutshell is that men find it harder as they get older to make new friends and even if they do, often these friendships are a little shallow and, therefore, not emotionally fulfilling.

If you correlate this to the fact that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 (a rate of 15.8 per cent per 100,000 compared to 5.5 per cent for women) it suggests that if men could be supported to make new and deeper friendships, then this would be a good service for our industry to deliver for men (and in turn their families) and would go some way to improving population health, which needs to be part of our new purpose.

I can relate. We moved to Lancashire just before we had our two children and I was opening the first Virgin Health club. I was pretty busy and had moved away from my friends, as had my wife. I did sport (triathlon) but trained alone or with my wife. I had no mates, even though I spent all day with people – mostly staff and members.

We later moved to Cumbria and through coaching rugby made friends with other parents and have since done long bike rides and hikes and walk the dog each week with friends I can talk with about anything and everything.

I’m happier and more content with the release valve we unintentionally offer each other. Interestingly, even though my wife worked and raised the kids with little help from me while we were in Lancashire, she forged deep lasting friendships that survive today.

So can the sector reach out and create opportunities for men of all ages to find new mates? Judging by the deluge of examples that followed my Linkedin post, the answer is yes indeed! Some amazing examples were posted and I’m sure there are many others out there right now.

A few of us are determined to find many examples of the work that goes on now across the country to highlight best practice and give the policymakers an insight into how – if scaled and co-ordinated – a true wellness movement can be created that will significantly move the dial on improving population health and closing the inequality gap.

I’d love to hear examples of how you’re doing exactly that so we can help create the proposition for the sector that will take us to the next level in our mission

Email: [email protected]

Andy King / photo: GM Active

Andy King, Director, Miova

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