Scout and Guide participation boosts later life health
27 October 2022
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. 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 from 1,333 people, born between 1950 and 1956, from the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s study. Around 30% of the participants had been in the Scouts or Guides. They were found to have 53% 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, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, ADR UK and the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research, was published in the European Journal of Public Health.
Professor Chris Dibben, Director of the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research, School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh, 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. Scouts is a cost effective way of improving the health of the population, and its needed now more than ever.”
Read the journal article published by the European Journal of Public Health.
This news item was originally published by The University of Edinburgh.