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Bilingual Ability Tied to Later Dementia Onset

Bilingual Ability Tied to Later Dementia OnsetNeurological researchers have discovered that speaking a second language may delay the onset of three types of dementias.

In the largest study on the topic to date, researchers found that people who spoke two languages developed dementia four and a half years later than people who only spoke one language.

The findings are published in the online issue of Neurology.

“Our study is the first to report an advantage of speaking two languages in people who are unable to read, suggesting that a person’s level of education is not a sufficient explanation for this difference,” said study author Suvarna Alladi, M.D.

“Speaking more than one language is thought to lead to better development of the areas of the brain that handle executive functions and attention tasks, which may help protect from the onset of dementia.”

For the study, 648 people from India with an average age of 66 who were diagnosed with dementia were evaluated. Of those, 391 spoke two or more languages.

A total of 240 had Alzheimer’s disease, 189 had vascular dementia and 116 had frontotemporal dementia, with the remainder having dementia with Lewy bodies and mixed dementia. Fourteen percent were illiterate.

People who spoke two languages had a later onset of Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia than people who spoke only one language.

The difference was also found in those who could not read. There was no additional benefit in speaking more than two languages.

The two-language effect on age of dementia onset was shown separately of other factors such as education, gender, occupation and whether participants lived in the city or country.

“These results offer strong evidence for the protective effect of bilingualism against dementia in a population very different from those studied so far in terms of its ethnicity, culture and patterns of language use,” Alladi said.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

 

Elderly man photo by shutterstock.

Bilingual Ability Tied to Later Dementia Onset

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Bilingual Ability Tied to Later Dementia Onset. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/11/08/bilingual-ability-tied-to-later-dementia-onset/61762.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.