Besides being able to navigate in two or more cultures, people who speak more than one language have a lower risk for developing earlier dementia, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology. In the study, a team of British and Indian scientists tracked nearly 650 dementia patients, taking note of when each patient was diagnosed with the condition. The researchers found that individuals who speak more than one language and who are diagnosed with dementia tend to receive their diagnosis up to five years later than those who speak only one language.
“We know from other studies that mental activity has a certain protective effect,” study author Thomas Bak, a neurologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland told USA Today. “Bilingualism combines a lot of different mental activities. You have to switch sounds, concepts, grammatical structures, cultural concepts. It stimulates your brain all the time.”
The research found that the correlation even extended to illiterate individuals — suggesting that the effect has nothing to do with formal education. When the team compared data for illiterate people, those who could speak more than one language were diagnosed with dementia six years later on average.
For the study, the scientists reviewed the medical records of patients who visited a clinic in the city of Hyderabad, the largest city of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The team said that selecting this location was important because residents of the city often speak two or three language – typically some combination of India’s official language, a local dialect, and English.
Full story of speaking different languages and dementia at Red Orbit