Joining a club as a teenager may prolong your life

By Doug Bennett • Published: October 7th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Playing sports or joining a club doesn’t just give teenagers a social outlet. It may also extend their lives.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that teenagers who belonged to community groups, clubs or sports teams had a lower risk of death by age 78.

The scientists analyzed data from a study that followed a large group of Scottish men and women from 1947 to 2014. Here’s what they found: Among those who belonged to a club at age 18, nearly half were still alive in 2014, compared to just 31 percent of non-club members.

Club members also had better school attendance and were rated higher for dependability by their teachers. These patterns carried over later in life, too. At age 26, those who joined clubs as teenagers seemed to have better social lives than those who didn’t belong to clubs.

Even after adjusting the figures for factors like socioeconomic status and intelligence, the mortality rate for club members was significantly lower. Researchers believe that social relationships earlier in life are as important as the bonds we form later in life. The researchers say joining clubs during youth can be an important part of protecting your lifelong well-being.

But club membership alone isn’t a predictor of longevity. Other factors such as cognitive ability, personality traits and a more privileged social background may have an influence, too.

Still, researchers note that the stress reduction, boost in self-esteem and psychological benefits of social interaction as a teenager can improve a person’s chances of living longer.

So, kids, get out there and sign up for a club or sports team. Parents, sign your children up for an activity. Years from now, you’ll be glad you did.