Guides and Scouts have better mental health in later life

10 November 2016

A study of almost 10,000 people has found that taking part in Guiding or Scouting may help to lower the risk of mental illness in later life

Organisations like Girlguiding – which aim to develop young people’s reliance, resolve and a desire for self-learning – may help young people to build resilience against common stresses, and increase their chances of achieving more in life.

Researchers found that:

  • those who had belonged to Guides or Scouts tended to have better mental health at age 50
  • study participants that had been in Guides or Scouts were around 15 per cent less likely to suffer from anxiety or mood disorders, compared with others
  • the activities in Guiding and Scouting - which frequently involve being outdoors - seem to remove the relatively higher likelihood of mental illness in those from poorer backgrounds
  • programmes that help children develop skills such as self-reliance and teamwork, and encourage being active outdoors, may have lifelong benefits.

Lead researcher Professor Chris Dibben, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, says, '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.'

Girlguiding is, and for over 100 years now has been, for the girl. It offers a safe space where they can be themselves, build their confidence and escape from the ever-increasing pressures in their lives. Women tell us every week that their accomplishments and memories through Guiding have lasted throughout their lives, so it's amazing to see research showing the long-term benefits of being a member of Girlguiding - Emma Brodey, 18, a member of the Girlguiding Advocate Panel

The findings were drawn from a lifelong study of people from across the UK who were born in November 1958, known as the National Child Development Study.

Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow analysed the data, and the study - supported by the Economic and Social Research Council - was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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