Scouts and Guides May Have Better Mental Health in Later Life

Taking part in scouts or guides appears to help lower the risk of mental illness in later life, a study suggests.

Children who take part in scouts or guides - which aim to develop qualities such as self-reliance, resolve and a desire for self-learning - are likely to have better mental health in middle age, the findings show.

Such activities, which often involve being outdoors, also seem to remove the relatively higher likelihood of mental illness in those from poorer backgrounds.

Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said:

Our childhoods and teenage years are when mental health is developed and patterns set for the future, so a child with good mental health is much more likely to have good mental health as an adult.

Girlguiding continues to do groundbreaking work in helping young women develop resilience and self-identity. We were delighted to support them in creating a Think Resilient badge earlier this year, which helps girls learn how to manage difficulties and cope when times are tough.”

Study's findings

The study's findings were drawn from a lifelong study of almost 10,000 people from across the UK, known as the National Child Development Study.

Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, who analysed the data, found that those who had belonged to the scouts or guides tended to have better mental health at age 50.

Researchers say their findings suggest 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, 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." 

YoungMinds working with Girlguiding

Earlier this year YoungMinds and Girlguiding came together to launch a new resource to help tackle girl’s low mental wellbeing. The Think Resilient badge, gives girls space to talk about their mental wellbeing and resilience. The resource, which was created by Girlguiding in partnership with YoungMinds, is made up of interactive activities to help girls find positive ways of dealing with pressures and challenges in their lives.

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