Research reveals Scout participation lowers mental health risks

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Rory Maguire

A study carried out by University of Glasgow has found that participation in Scouts or Guides may lower the risk of poor mental health later in life.

The research was carried out by scientists at both Glasgow and Edinburgh University and aimed to discover a link between participation in Scouts or Guides and mental health.

The research analysed data of almost ten thousand participants from a 1958 National Child Development Study. Of the 9603 members, 28% had participated in the Scouts-Guides youth organisations. Using a comparison of the current mental health index of the candidates, the researchers discovered that those who took part in Scouts-Guides were 18% less likely to suffer from poor mental health later in life.

The conclusions drawn from the study are that such organisations “support resilience and social mobility”, which researchers believe can be attributed to the skills gained from membership.

Professor Richard Mitchell of Glasgow University commented: “The results that we obtained showed that it did seem to be particular to Scouts and Guides. We didn’t see the same protective effect from, for example, volunteering or from church groups.”

He continued: “If you think about what happens at Scouts and Guides week in week out, you face new challenges. You learn to overcome those with the help of your friends, you acquire new skills. You get used to overcoming unexpected situations and we think that’s probably at the heart of the effect.”

Bear Grylls, Chief Scout in the organisation believes: “Through initiatives such as our A Million Hands Campaign, the Scout Association is helping give young people the ability to develop mental wellbeing throughout their lives.”
As the UK’s biggest mixed youth organisation, the Scouts allows those between the ages of 6-25 to take part in a variety of activities and earn qualifications ranging from kayaking to first aid courses. The organisation aims to help “children and young adults reach their full potential” through the development of skills such as teamwork, communication and self-motivation.

Girlguiding, a similar development based organisation, believes that “girls take what they do in guiding with them as they grow up”, which further asserts the results found in the study.

The project’s lead researcher Professor Chris Dibben of the University of Edinburgh commented: “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.”

The study was published 10 November in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and was carried out across three departments from the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.


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