More Languages = Less Dementia
New research suggests that the more languages you speak, the lower your chances of developing dementia. This finding comes from a study of 325 Roman Catholic nuns, where it was observed that only six percent of them who spoke four or more languages developed dementia compared to 31 percent who spoke only one language. Speaking two or three languages didn’t appear to reduce the risk in this study, a finding that differs from earlier research, which suggested that speaking two or more languages may be protective. “Language is a complex ability of the human brain, and switching between different languages takes cognitive flexibility. So, it makes sense that the extra mental exercise multilinguals would (perform) from speaking four or more languages might help their brains be in better shape than monolinguals,” said study leader Suzanne Tyas of Canada’s University of Waterloo. The study further found that written linguistic ability also lowered the risk of dementia – the number of ideas expressed succinctly in written work had a more pronounced effect in reducing risk than speaking four or more languages.
Suzanne L. Tyas et al, “Multilingualism and Dementia Risk: Longitudinal Analysis of the Nun Study,” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, September 3, 2019, DOI: 10.3233/JAD-181302
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