Scouts and Guides boosts later life health

Taking part in the Scouts or Guides is associated with better general health in middle age, a study suggests.

Scouts together
Scouts together. Credit-Getty images filmstudio

Children who participated in these organisations – which aim to support young people in their personal development – were around 35 per cent more likely to report excellent health at age 50 compared to their peers, the findings show.

Around a quarter of this difference may be due to Scouts and Guides achieving a higher socioeconomic position in adulthood, according to the research.

Positive benefits

Previous research suggests that participation in these organisations helps lower the risk of mental illness in later life, but less is known about their lifelong impact on overall health.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, analysed questionnaires and data and from 1,333 people, born between 1950 and 1956, from the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s study.

Excellent health

Around 30 per cent of the participants had been in the Scouts or Guides. They were found to have 53 per cent higher odds of excellent general health in adulthood – or about a 35 per cent higher probability – compared to those who had attended other types of clubs including youth clubs, choirs or sports clubs.

The study looked at why this difference might have existed and found that about a quarter could be explained by the type of employment a person had.

Social mobility

The researchers also took account of parental occupation and it appears that those who had been in the Scouts or Guides had greater social mobility, which may have led to improved chances of better health. 

The study, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, ADR UK and the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research, was published in the European Journal of Public Health.

Given the importance societies place on ensuring good health in later life, supporting youth programmes that are delivered by charities and supported by volunteers, may represent a cost-effective way of improving population health.

Professor Chris DibbenDirector, Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh


Access to cohort studies such as the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s are invaluable. They allow us to better understand how aspects of childhood can have an impact on a person much later in life and informing how we might take action to improve lives.

Dr Laurie BerriePostdoctoral Research Assistant, Health and Wellbeing, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Every week 420,000 young people take part in Scouts, having adventures and developing life skills. This study proves what we already know - being a Scout is good for you. Young people who participate in Scouts are 35% more likely to have self-reported excellent health at age 50 compared to their peers. Scouts is also a route to greater social mobility over someone’s lifetime. Scouts is a cost effective way of improving the health of the population, and its needed now more than ever.

Matt HydeChief Executive of Scouts

Related links

Journal paper   

School of GeoSciences  

Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research