Fight Dementia: Go Bilingual

Speaking 2 languages helps even if you can't read

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 7, 2013 8:14 AM CST

(Newser) – If you could be reading this in another language, good news: You may have an extra weapon against dementia. A study in India suggests that being bilingual delays three kinds of dementia by 4.5 years on average, NBC News reports. "Being bilingual is a particularly efficient and effective type of mental training," says a co-author of the study, adding to USA Today: "You have to switch sounds, concepts, grammatical structures, cultural concepts. It stimulates your brain all the time."

The study of 648 dementia patients was the largest of its kind, and India was a great place to conduct it, researchers say: There, "bilingualism is not a characteristic of any particular socioeconomic, geographic, or religious group." Speakers of one language began showing dementia signs at age 61; for the bilingual, it was 65½. For Alzheimer's specifically, the delay was three years; researchers also looked at frontotemporal and vascular dementia, which had a longer delay among bilingual subjects. The study offered another interesting detail: The benefits of bilingualism apply even if you can't read, suggesting that differences in onset age aren't dependent on education, USA Today notes.

Speaking two languages can help fend off dementia, studies suggest.
Speaking two languages can help fend off dementia, studies suggest.   (Shutterstock)
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