Being a member of the scouts or guides during childhood is linked to a lower risk of mental illness in middle age.
According to a study by Chris Dibben at the University of Edinburgh, who looked at 10,000 people born in the UK in November 1958, the 28% who had been involved in the scouting or guiding movement as youths were 15% less likely to suffer from anxiety or mood disorders.
Although there are various reasons put forward for the differences in mental health during later life, Dibben concluded that the main contributing factors were that these groups help to develop resilience, self-reliance, resolve, teamwork, challenge, a desire for learning, and often outdoor activities. Therefore, although this study focussed on a group born over half a century ago, it seems that the principles of the groups have not changed and that the same benefits could be derived from membership for children today. Given the growing levels of stress and poor mental health in younger people, it might be beneficial for parents and carers to encourage membership of these youth programmes.
However, the study did not find any correlation of improved mental health for those joining church groups or other voluntary groups.
Because scouting and guiding includes children from a variety of social backgrounds, it also concluded that this could not be attributed to better standards or living or wealthier children. Although those from poorer backgrounds are more likely to suffer from poor mental health, this was offset by being part of the scouting or guiding movement, so it would appear that encouraging membership in poorer communities is particularly important.
It looks as though if we want to "be prepared" for life, we should all be saying "hats off" or perhaps "woggles off" to Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, the founders of the Scouts and Guides!
Source: New Scientist and Press Association