NEWS - Scout and Guides participation boosts later life health

Our study, led by Professor Chris Dibben, suggests taking part in the Scouts or Guides is associated with better general health in middle age.

Taking part in the Scouts or Guides is associated with better general health in middle age, a study suggests.

Children who participated in these organisations – which aim to support young people in their personal development – were around 35 per cent more likely to report excellent health at age 50 compared to their peers, the findings show.

Around a quarter of this difference may be due to Scouts and Guides achieving a higher socioeconomic position in adulthood, according to the research.

Positive benefits

Previous research suggests that participation in these organisations helps lower the risk of mental illness in later life, but less is known about their lifelong impact on overall health.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh analysed questionnaires and data and from 1,333 people, born between 1950 and 1956, from the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s study.

Excellent health 

Around 30 per cent of the participants had been in the Scouts or Guides. They were found to have 53 per cent higher odds of excellent general health in adulthood – or about a 35 per cent higher probability – compared to those who had attended other types of clubs including youth clubs, choirs or sports clubs.

The study looked at why this difference might have existed and found that a small percentage could be explained by the type of employment a person had.

The researchers also took account of parental occupation and it appears that those who had been in the Scouts or Guides had greater social mobility, which may have led to improved chances of better health. 

The study, led by ADR Scotland and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, was published in the European Journal of Public Health. Professor Chris Dibben, Director of the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research, said:

 Given the importance societies place on ensuring good health in later life, supporting youth programmes that are delivered by charities and supported by volunteers, may represent a cost-effective way of improving population health.

Dr Laurie Berrie, Postdoctoral Research Assistant in Health and Wellbeing, School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh, said:

Access to cohort studies such as the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s are invaluable. They allow us to better understand how aspects of childhood can have an impact on a person much later in life and informing how we might take action to improve lives.

Matt Hyde, Chief Executive of Scouts, said:

Every week 420,000 young people take part in Scouts, having adventures and developing life skills. This study proves what we already know - being a Scout is good for you. Young people who participate in Scouts are 35% more likely to have self-reported excellent health at age 50 compared to their peers. Scouts is also a route to greater social mobility over someone’s lifetime. Scouts is a cost effective way of improving the health of the population, and its needed now more than ever.


Read full Journal Paper - (October 2022)

This article was published on 25 Oct 2022

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