People who were in the scouts or guides in childhood have better mental health in later life, a study suggests. Analysis of a study of 10,000 people found ex-members were 15% less likely than other adults to suffer anxiety or mood disorders at the age of 50. Researchers believe it could be the lessons in resilience and resolve that such organisations offer that has a lasting positive impact. The researchers were from Edinburgh and Glasgow universities. They looked at data from a lifelong study of almost 10,000 people from across the UK who were born in November 1958, known as the National Child Development Study. About a quarter of study participants had been in the scouts or guides.The researchers said their findings indicated that programmes that help children develop skills such as self-reliance and teamwork, and encourage being active outdoors, may have lifelong benefits.
Attending the guides or scouts may help build resilience against common stresses in life, or it may increase a person’s chances of achieving more in life, so that they are less likely to experience such stresses, the team suggested. Lead researcher Prof Chris Dibben, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences, said: “It is quite startling that this benefit is found in people so many years after they have attended guides or scouts. “We expect the same principles would apply to the scouts and guides of today and so, given the high costs of mental ill-health to individuals and society, a focus on voluntary youth programmes such as the guides and scouts might be very sensible.” Prof Richard Mitchell, of the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health at the University of Glasgow, said: “Governments and health services around the world struggle to do something about the health gap between richer and poorer people, so this new evidence that being a scout or guide can help is very important.”