A study by the University of Edinburgh suggests that children, who participate in the organizations, 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.
Such activities, which frequently involve being outdoors, also seem to remove the relatively higher likelihood of mental illness in those from poorer backgrounds, the results showed.
The findings were drawn from a lifelong study of almost 10,000 people from across the UK who were born in November 1958, 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.
Around one-quarter of study participants had been in the scouts or guides, and those were found to be around 15 percent less likely to suffer from anxiety or mood disorders, compared with others.
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.
Attending the guides or scouts may help build resilience against common stresses in life, or it may increase a person’s chances of achieving more in life, so that they are less likely to experience such stresses, researchers suggest.
Lead researcher Chris Dibben 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.”