Study links Scouting with better mental health later in life

Some benefits of Scouting show up right away. Others take months, years or even decades to be appreciated fully.

Into that latter category goes a new study from Great Britain that suggests adults who were in Scouting as young people have better mental health.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, analyzed a group of 9,603 adults — of whom 28 percent were Scouts as kids.

Adults who were in Scouting had 18 percent lower odds of a mood or anxiety disorder by age 50, even after controlling for other factors of childhood.

So why is this so? The authors posit that Scouting supports resilience throughout childhood.

Former Scouts develop “the potential for continued progressive self-education, ‘soft’ noncognitive skills, self-reliance, collaboration and activities in natural environments,” according to the study’s authors.

This all results in an adult who is less likely to have mental health problems.

Socioeconomic inequalities overcome

It gets even better.

The authors also looked at “inequalities in adult mental health associated with early life socioeconomic position.”

In other words: Does Scouting help overcome some of the challenges of growing up in a lower-income family?

Yes. The researchers found that participation in Scouting reduced or even removed the chances that someone from a lower socioeconomic background would develop mental health issues later in life.

Scout participation, they write, “may be protective, instituting a resilience to stressful life events that may lead to mental ill health.”

Possible explanations

At this point, Scouters likely are nodding their heads. This matches what we already know about Scouting’s ability to prepare young people for life.

But I found the section of the study called “Possible Explanations and Implications” to be quite fascinating. Here are some highlights:

  • Scouting offers a “system of progressive self-education based on: promises (laws), active learning, interactions within small groups and stimulating, individual-driven, self-learning through awards.”
  • “Not being purely recreational and unstructured, as a youth sport club might be, [Scouting uses] activities to allow young people to learn ‘to know,’ ‘to be,’ ‘to do’ with adults assisting, rather than directing.”
  • Continued self-learning enables former Scouts “to structure and run their adult lives in a way that is relatively more protective against mental ill health.”
  • Scouting activities develop traits like “confidence, personality, motivation, charm, that are increasingly recognised as important for achieving adult social position.”
  • Scouts spend more time outdoors, and “there is now evidence that exposure to natural outdoor environments is protective of mental health.”
  • Physical activity is a big part of Scouting, and the “benefits of physical activity for protecting or improving mental health are well established.”

Your thoughts?

Have you noticed additional positive links between Scouting and mental health? Share them in the comments.


  1. Of course Scouting works! We’ve known it all along, but it’s nice to see the rest of the world getting the message in studies like this and the Tufts study. Now if we can just get that message out beyond just few academic journals!

    That’s the purpose of a new major Hollywood motion picture that Trefoil Productions LLC is developing, along with Oscar-winning producer Gerald Molen. It’s called “On My Honour” and it dramatically tells the story of the early life of our Founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell where he learned and developed the principles and skills that would later find fruition in the Scouting Movement.

    To see the presentation made about “On My Honour” to the 69th B-P Fellowship Event of the World Scout Foundation by myself and The Hon. Michael Baden-Powell (B-P’s grandson) in Melbourne Australia last March, paste this into your browser:

    As B-P said, “Good Scouting to all!”

  2. My husband and I have been married for 48 years, involved in Scouting almost all those years, were involved in Scouting as youth (me in Girl Scouts), and still enjoy being somewhat active still. We look forward to many more years of active living, including our roles in Scouting. We enjoy what we can continue to contribute to this organization. The other groups we are involved in also benefit from our Scouting background. Thanks Scouting!!!

  3. I am a pediatrician and used to work in a pediatric ER. We called the social workers in to deal with psychiatric emergencies. One told me one night, “I just don’t believe there are any healthy kids out there any more.” I told her, “That’s because you only see the kids with problems. You don’t see the Eagle Scouts, the girl who is president of her church youth group, or the kids who work hard to earn an amateur radio license, or the ones who volunteer to work on projects that help other people. They don’t come in here with psychiatric problems!”

  4. I am from México. I have been Scout since I was 14 years old. I am almost 50, On march. My son and housband are too. We Still volunteer in Scouts. I have seen a lot of good young people having owesome lifes. Including mine! ! Scout really works! !! BE PREPARED! !SIEMPRE LISTOS!!!

  5. They should do a similar study on adult Scouting volunteers. I’m pretty sure it would show most of us are slowly losing our minds…

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