Bilingual Immigrants Are Healthier, Study Finds

By Hope Gillette

Stress and discrimination may play a role in the declining health of immigrants, however, a recent Stanford University study revealed there are far more factors at work than common sociology would indicate.

Ariela Schachter, a sociology Ph.D student, led new research using data collected from the 2002-2003 National Latino and Asian American Study. Based on the questions asked to participants concerning general health and everyday activities, Schachter and her partners were able to construct a mathematical model explaining the health benefits of being bilingual.

The results indicated that bilingual immigrants do in fact report better overall health.  Another Stanford study also revealed bilingual individuals are less likely to develop early onset Alzheimer’s disease due to being able to switch back and forth between two languages, enabling the ability to use complex pathways within the brain. While Alzheimer’s disease was not preventable, the onset was delayed when compared to monolingual patients.

“What we found out is we need to do more to find what drives this,” sais Schachter, quoted byEGP News. The need to delve deeper into the study is only solidified by doubts from other experts, wondering if being bilingual simply means having the innate ability to excel in all areas.

Ellen Bialystok, Ph.D., a professor at York University in Toronto said to EGP News: “It’s possible that education and socio-economic status are the true underlying cause of the immigrants’ better health and not their language status.”

[Photo By Jason Hargrove]

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