Benefits of Bilingualism | Reduced Risk of Dementia

Something very important for parents to know: not only are there no downsides to raising a child bilingual, there are also real, measurable benefits for their minds and their health.

The more research scientists do on bilingualism, the more they reveal that it helps develop a strong, healthier brain.

One of the most striking benefits sounds almost too good to be true: a significantly delayed onset of Alzheimer’s disease and associated dementia in lifelong bilinguals.

 The Study

It sounds too good to be true, but a Canadian team of researchers published a paper (Craik et. al., 2010) studying patients already diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease.

They compared similarly sized groups of bilingual and monolingual patients, controlling for other factors.

On average, the bilingual patients had been diagnosed 4.3 years later than monolinguals, and began reporting onset symptoms 5.1 years later.

For comparison, a five-year delay in Alzheimer’s onset is years better than the best results from drugs currently available.

Neuroscientists theorize that bilingualism, along with other forms of mental engagement, help build a “cognitive reserve” that preserves brain function after the onset of Alzheimer’s.

The Practical Results

So what does this mean for your children?

The answer is very simple: raising them as lifelong bilinguals could potentially stave off a devastating and debilitating disease late in their lives.

It’s certainly not a total cure or immunity — but it’s far more effective than any current medical treatments. And it arrives naturally as a side benefit to the more practical uses of bilingualism they’ll already be enjoying their whole life.