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Real men relax

Breaking stigma of men in spas

Throughout my time so far in the spa industry, and in my life beyond it, it's become clear that both men and women face barriers when it comes to health. We all face both personal and general wellbeing challenges, they're just different. June is a month where there's much focus on men. It's Men’s Health Week from 13th to 19th June, and it's Father’s Day on the 18th.

Men's health statistics

The stats on men's health are many and varied, but I think Statista's rather clinical analysis sets the scene quite succinctly:

"The life expectancy for men in the United States was 76.3 years, around five years less than that of women. The leading causes of death for men in 2018 were heart disease and cancer, accounting for a combined 45.9 percent of all male deaths that year. In addition to physical disease, mental health issues are common among men in the U.S., with suicide ranking the eighth leading cause of death. Men are often more likely than women to participate in behaviour that puts their health at risk, through smoking and drinking alcohol for example, highlighting the need for men to be educated on and encouraged to lead healthy lifestyles."

Recently, Luke Sherriff, Co-Founder of Proverb Skincare, also wrote for us, discussing his thoughts on mental health. Within it he noted some sobering facts, notably that three times as many men as women die by suicide, and also that men report lower levels of life satisfaction than women. We can all hypothesise about whether men talk enough, whether men look after their mental wellbeing enough and so forth, but no doubt there are many factors at play and there are many things that contribute to helping - none of which are a complete solution on their own.

It's important to enjoy our health

What I have always found about the spa industry when it comes to wellbeing, and where I think it's most powerful, is that it's a way to enjoy health. I think so often this is something that gets lost somewhere between medical appointments and the pressures people put themselves under to look a certain way or workout a certain amount. Enjoying your health and wellbeing; enjoying being in your own skin is a wonderful thing. Not only can that open the door to better mental and physical health, but also being more attuned to our minds and bodies as well.

I don't think the spa industry can solve everyone's challenges, nor do I think it's in any way a replacement for medical support. However, I not only think, but know, that spa facilities and spa treatments can have a profound impact on wellbeing. They can help us maintain good health, feel better during poor health, and aid our recovery. We know that cortisol decreases while serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy - in studies, an average increase of 28% was noted for serotonin and an average increase of 31% was noted for dopamine. The point being that it's not purely that a massage is a nice thing to have but it has a measurable physical impact on stress in the body, which in turn impacts mental health as well.

Men in spas

When it comes to men in spas, the challenge across the years has been changing the way we think about spas and making it clear that they're a space for everyone to enjoy - men included. Once upon a time, and maybe to some extent still, spas have been considered a space for women alone, but that has certainly changed and continues to do so. In 2017, the International Spa Association (USA) reported that "49% of spa customers were men, up from 29% in 2005."

I am not sure that the figures in the UK are quite at that level, but I hope that one day they will be. As a mother of two emotionally intelligent boys, I am simultaneously nervous for them that they live in a world where there are so many psychological pressures whilst also being delighted that they are born to an age where conversations can be had about mental and physical wellbeing and where the breakdown of stereotypical gender roles does open them up to a space in which they can find well-being tools, habits and support that work for them.

I also consider it a personal privilege that my sons (and daughter) live in connection with an industry that supports holistic wellbeing - treating the mind and body in tandem with one another; nurturing the whole person. I hope more men continue to discover the spa industry, feeling safe and welcome within it. There are so many options available for wellbeing in this space, from time to gather your thoughts and calm the parasympathetic nervous system to something specific like addressing a sports injury.

Our campaign at Spabreaks.com this month, in line with Men's Health Week and Father's Day, is 'Real Men Relax'. I think men feel enormous pressure to push through when they're struggling, particularly when it comes to stress and anxiety (so do women, but we typically communicate differently). While it's not the solution to all things, taking time to relax - not just doing nothing, but proactively doing things to relax the body and its corresponding impact on mental and emotional health - can make a huge difference. It's not worth pushing yourself to breaking point. Don't be a hero. The spa industry is here for you.

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