Youth organizations, social mobility and health in middle age: evidence from a Scottish 1950s prospective cohort study

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Abstract

Background
Informal educational programmes focused on youth development appear to improve health and well-being at time of involvement. Less is known about long-term effects. We investigate their impact on self-reported general health in mid-life using the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s (ACONF) cohort.

Methods
We use a subset (n = 1333) of the ACONF cohort, born 1950–56, in Aberdeen Scotland, who took part in Family and Reading Surveys in 1964 and a follow-up questionnaire in 2001. We explore exposure to youth development focused clubs in childhood on self-reported general health around age 50 mediated by adult socioeconomic position. Logistic regression and mediation analysis were used to report odds ratios and natural direct and indirect effects, respectively, on multiply imputed data.

Results
Being a member of the Scouts/Guides (G&S) was associated with a 53% (95% confidence interval 1.03–2.27) higher odds of ‘excellent’ general health in adulthood compared to children attending ‘other clubs’. Indirect effects of G&S and Boys’/Girls’ Brigade (B&GB) on general health acting via higher socioeconomic position show positive associations; 12% and 6% higher odds of ‘excellent’ general health in adulthood compared to children attending ‘other clubs’, respectively. Comparison of indirect with direct effects suggests 27% of this association is mediated through a higher adult socioeconomic position in adulthood.

Conclusions
These results suggest a beneficial association between attending G&S and B&GB clubs in childhood and adult general health. As these organizations are volunteer-led, this may represent a cost-effective method for improving population health.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Early online date26 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2022

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