Bilingual immigrants are healthier, according to new study

March 15, 2012

Bilingual immigrants are healthier than immigrants who speak only one language, according to new research from sociologists at Rice University.

The study, which appears in the March issue of the , found that people with strong English and native language proficiencies report better physical and mental health than unilingual immigrants.

"Our research suggests that gained at the expense of native-language fluency may not be beneficial for overall health status," said Rice alumna and Stanford University graduate student Ariela Schachter, who co-authored the research paper with Rice sociology professors Bridget Gorman and Rachel Tolbert Kimbro. "It's very important for the immigrants to hold on to their native language in addition to learning English."

The study examined associations between English and native-language proficiency and usage and self-rated health for more than 4,649 U.S. immigrants from China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

The research showed that the favorable health reported by bilingual immigrants is not impacted by factors such as socioeconomic status, acculturation, family and social support, stress and discrimination and . The researchers theorize that the health benefits may be the result of a kind of "cultural flexibility" that allows them to easily integrate with their surroundings while maintaining cultural ties.

"Individuals who maintain native-language fluency while also learning English may be better equipped to retain relationships in their countries of origin and form new ones in the U.S.," Gorman said. "We believe this can help explain the positive relationship between and self-rated health."

"There are still big questions about why bilingual immigrants are healthier than their unilingual counterparts," Kimbro said. "We hope our findings will encourage further research of the subject."

Explore further: Researchers find first physical evidence bilingualism delays onset of Alzheimer's symptoms

More information: Language Proficiency and Health Status: Are Bilingual Immigrants Healthier?:

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Serious research into what makes us laugh

November 24, 2015

More complex jokes tend to be funnier but only up to a point, Oxford researchers have found. Jokes that are too complicated tend to lose the audience.

Psychologists dispute continuum theory of sexual orientation

November 19, 2015

Washington State University researchers have established a categorical distinction between people who are heterosexual and those who are not. By analyzing the reported sexual behavior, identity and attraction of more than ...

Babies have logical reasoning before age one, study finds

November 18, 2015

Human infants are capable of deductive problem solving as early as 10 months of age, a new study by psychologists at Emory University and Bucknell finds. The journal Developmental Science is publishing the research, showing ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.