Mens Health Week 2021

What do mens health, nature and meeting like minds have to do with each other?

Well, actually quite a bit.

Man looks out over forest

Photo by BAILEY MAHON

For Mens Health Week this year, we’re taking a quick dive into what we know about how Mens Health can be improved through a little more time being in and taking action for nature.

 

Taking care of Men’s Wellbeing

We know that one of the most important things for everyone is to try to take care of our health and wellbeing, before things get to a crisis point. Actively nurturing wellbeing in our lives is possible through daily activities such as meeting friends and family, giving back, and physical activity, according to the internationally-recognised 5 Ways to Wellbeing [1].

These every day activities overlap really well with volunteering in nature, if activities are well designed and facilitated (for example, through the likes of our opportunities) and they make space for social connection, safe physical exertion, learning new things, space for observing and noticing, and of course – reflection on the importance of stewardship and giving back. This is backed up by Mens Line Australia which identifies volunteering as a great activity to combat loneliness, improve social connection and more [2].

 

Connecting to Culture

It’s widely understood that indigenous people have a strong connection to nature as custodians, and that being able to practice this culture is vital to closing the gap for Indigenous Australians’ health and wellbeing [3]. Through the likes of indigenous ranger programs, cultural burning training, and areas where people are able to openly practice custodial activities, advancements are being made at the intersection of culture and mens health.

 

Ask The Men

Currently the last nationwide ABC Talks survey turned up some interesting findings. When men were asked what would make them happier, the overwhelming winner was ‘More time in nature’ with 77% of people surveyed reporting to somewhat or strongly agree [4].

77% of men would be happier if they spent more time in nature

– ABC Talks Survey, 2019

What’s surprising about this is some of the other options which ranked much lower included working less, having more friends, travelling more, socialising more, and had more money. Perhaps organisations like CVA need to create more opportunities for men to get out and about into nature, to support that desire and bolster mens health.

 

Redesigning Mens Health Services

The theme of this year’s Mens Health Week shines a bit of a light on how health services can best be delivered for men. According to research from Mens Line Australia, mens health services should be delivered in familiar and comfortable surrounds such as sports clubs and outdoor settings [5].

This provides a great opportunity for health services to partner with sports clubs, outdoor groups and other organisations that deliver the opportunity for people to spend time in nature. For many years, CVA ran a program called Green Gym which enabled older Australians to keep active, and there’s been various explorations of ‘Green Prescriptions’ over the years where health services and the likes of Parks have collaborated for health and environmental outcomes [6] [7].

“If more Australians were physically active for just 30 minutes a day the Australian healthcare system could save $1.5 billion a year, whilst creating a healthier community.”

– Medibank, The cost of inactivity in Australia

 

Men in Dandenong Ranges Forest

Photo by Pat Whelen

Protecting and restoring nature helps human health

During covid-19 the world has been on a bit of a crash course when it comes to recognising just one link between human health and environmental protection (WEF – the chance of future pandemics increases with loss of nature). However, the links between nature and human health are MUCH more vast and interconnected than many of us think.

Nature is at the heart of stable and productive human society, it bolsters our economy for free, it’s the source of many of our new medicines, and it’s driving the nutrition going into our bodies [8]. Without protecting and restoring nature, and investing in nature-based solutions to the likes of climate change, urban sustainability, and agricultural productivity, we’re not really investing in our futures at all.

 

Improving access to nature

Studies are increasingly showing relatively small amounts of time in natural areas such as city parks, local creeks, and even our backyards can make a huge difference to our health. For example, a 2019 study showed that just 2 hours in nature each week corresponds to huge health increases many of which are high risk factors for men [9].

However we also know that not everyone has equal access to natural areas. Studies from around the world (including this one from Brisbane [10]) show that people with greater wealth have greater access. Given this, the importance of groups and organisations which are able to facilitate better access to nature-based activities for all Australians are increasingly important for health outcomes in our country.

“At the height of COVID-19 lockdown here in Australia, we realised just how imperative time outdoors, time in nature, is for our mental health.”

– Mens Health Australia [11]

 

For more information about Mens Health Week, including resources and media, check out their website : http://www.menshealthweek.org.au

 

Here at CVA, we’re also happy to say that we have an active commitment to health and wellbeing for our employees, through the likes of RU OK workplace champions. If you’re looking to join an organisation that’s working to build a better culture, why not check out our careers page and see if there’s anything available at the moment?

 

References

[1] 5 Ways to Wellbeing, Royal Melbourne Hospital (link)

[2] Benefits of Volunteering, Mens Line Australia (link)

[3] Improving Health, Country Needs People (link)

[4] I would be happier if…, ABC Talks Data Explorer (link)

[5] Changing how we talk about mens mental health, Mens Line Australia https://mensline.org.au/mens-mental-health/changing-how-we-talk-about-mens-mental-health/

[6] Green referrals, Active In Parks (link)

[7] Healthy Parks Healthy People – For Health Professionals, Parks Victoria (link)

[8] Biodiversity and Human Health, World Health Organisation (link)

[9] Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing, Nature – Scientific Reports (link)

[10] Socio-economic inequalities in access to nature on public and private lands: A case study from Brisbane, Australia, Landscape & Urban Planning Journal (PDF link)

[11] Nature Is More Imperative To Mental Health Than You Might Think, Mens Health Australia (link)

Get Involved

We’re here to make it easy to take action for nature and your own health, across Australia. Check out the ways that you can get involved in your local area.