Does Being a Guide or Scout as a Child Promote Mental Health in Adulthood?

The CLAHRC WM Director heard of this report on the radio and read the paper by Dibben, et al. with interest.[1] The study is based on nearly 10,000 fifty year old people from the 1958 birth cohort – the National Child Development Study. Twenty-eight percent had participated in the Guides or Scouts as children, and they scored highly significantly better on the Mental Health Index than those who did not. The standard deviation is not given, so it is hard to judge how important this is. However, the odds of a score indicative of a clinical disorder was 18% lower in the Guide/Scout group. The authors adjusted for the obvious confounders, of course, but the CLAHRC WM Director was worried that the differences between ‘intervention’ and ‘control’ group are much wider when the social class of the father was low – a small amount of residual confounding would eliminate the difference. That said, the results are consistent with other literature; exercise, contact with nature, and social interaction have all been individually shown to be associated with better mental health outcomes in children. Could this all result from systematic bias across all studies resulting from confounders hidden from view?

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Dibben C, Playford C, Mitchell R. Be(ing) prepared: Guide and Scout participation, childhood social position and mental health at age 50 – a prospective birth cohort study. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2016. [ePub].

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