Go Sisyphus

Positive health and well-being of men living in poverty (October 2012 – August 2020)


Men in poverty experience the lowest life expectancy and the worst health outcomes of any group in the UK. They are often stigmatised and blamed for their situation. The aim of this project is to discover, largely for the first time, the positive health and well-being such men experience and create.


Participants were 21 White British men living in the North of England whose income is in the lowest quintile: that is, under £14,000 a year. Their ages range from 22-71 years. Thirteen live alone and the others live with their significant other, family, or friends. Nine men are unemployed, nine are employed, either full- or part-time, and three are retired. Each was loaned a digital camera and asked to photograph anything that affected their health and well-being. The meaning of the photographs were discussed in a one-to-one interview to explore each man’s experience and creation of positive health and well-being. Interview transcripts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.


This project was undertaken by Mike Jestico for his PhD. It was supervised by Anna Madill and Siobhan Hugh-Jones of the School of Psychology, University of Leeds, UK.


This PhD was self-funded. We are grateful to following organisations for helping us to recruit participants and for their support for the research. Canal & River Trust, Carers Leeds, Healthwatch North Yorkshire, Moortown Foodbank, Orion Partnership. Thank you also to the Max Hamilton Fund for a grant for transcription.


For twice cheating death, Sisyphus the King of Corinth was condemned for eternity to push a heavy rock up a hill only for it roll down again just before he reached the top. The myth of Sisyphus teaches us to never give up on ourselves even when it all seems futile: that keeping going despite challenges is heroic and brings its own rewards. Presented here are the seven main themes of the analysis conducted for the project ‘Positive health and well-being of men living in poverty’.

Each theme is illustrated with example images and quotes from three different participants. All content is anonymised.

Theme 1: Journey towards health and well-being

Theme 2: Staying in balance

Theme 3: Impact of time

Theme 4: Space to be (or not to be)

Theme 5: Awareness

Theme 6: External resources

Theme 7: Resilience