Historic Vehicles & Wellbeing
By Roger King in The Magazine of the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs
These are, undoubtedly, exceptional times. For the last nine months or more, all of our lives have been changed to some extent by the SARS virus Covid-19. Everyone was affected by the nationwide lockdown that started in March, and despite some relaxing of restrictions in recent weeks the situation is showing little sign of improving, with many parts of the country heading back into restrictions on movement, social interaction and work activities. The effects of Covid-19 have not only been physical. There is growing evidence of how the way we are having to live now can affect our mental health, ranging from the fear of infection or the loss of employment to suffering the destructive effects of loneliness and depression. To some extent, the historic vehicle movement has coped with this extremely well, with the sector’s magazines and specialist press full of reports of long-stalled restorations moving ahead as owners have nothing else to do. Many parts suppliers and restoration companies have reported a boom in sales, which serves to emphasize how important historic vehicles are for the economy. This is great news, but I’d like to take a look at the part played by our hobby from a different perspective – has it benefitted the individual owner’s health and, if so, how? Has it helped to build a sense of wellbeing? ‘Wellbeing’ is not just another medical buzzword of the moment. It is an important element of a well-balanced, healthy life, the maintenance of which is not as simple as it used to be as society, ways of working and cultural and social interactions undergo inexorable change. The part played by active involvement in the classic vehicle movement in supporting wellbeing was known to be important before the current crisis arose – but now, for some, it has become a lifeline. The NHS website lists five steps to mental wellbeing:
- Connecting with other people
- Being physically active
- Learning new skills
- Giving to others and
- Mindfulness (paying attention to the present moment).
Public Health England have recommended taking up a hobby or learning a new skill as a way of managing mental health whilst isolating. Dr Daisy Fancourt, associate professor of psychobiology and epidemiology at University College London, says that active involvement in a hobby can improve wellbeing in three ways: ‘Creative hobbies and learning new skills can help by distracting people from their worries; it can help people come to terms with or reappraise things and get a new perspective; plus it can really boost confidence and self-esteem.’ Fancourt is leading the Covid-19 Social Study, which is tracking levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, domestic abuse and wellbeing across 90,000 participants and reports to the government, WHO and PHE. ‘A sense of purpose is linked in with longevity, better immune function, and better physical and mental health,’ she adds. ‘But it’s quite hard to find purpose if people have been locked down, for example, so volunteering or creative activities can give people a huge boost.’ Active interest in historic vehicles, ranging from carrying out historical research to teaching yourself to weld, is an excellent example of this kind of self-administered therapy. There have been some great stories in the classic press and club magazines of jobs done and the resurrection of stagnant projects under lockdown, but appealing as restoration diaries are, it would be really helpful to understand how our hobby has helped the mental health of our members over the last nine months. Some may feel benefit from simply shutting themselves in the workshop for a few hours, others may have more serious stories to tell. If you feel able, or willing, to share any mental health benefits you have gained from working on or with historic vehicles this year, we would be very grateful to hear your story. Any submissions will be treated with complete anonymity, and any personal accounts anonymized. The aim is to build a body of evidence of the positive effects of historic vehicles on mental health, demonstrating yet another aspect of why what we do is so.