Bilingual immigrants are healthier, according to new study

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."

More information: Language Proficiency and Health Status: Are Bilingual Immigrants Healthier?: hsb.sagepub.com/content/53/1/124.full.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Second language learners recall native language when reading

Jun 01, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Adults fluent in English whose first language is Chinese retrieve their native language when reading in English, according to new research in the June 2 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. This study sugges ...

Bilingual babies: The roots of bilingualism in newborns

Feb 16, 2010

It may not be obvious, but hearing two languages regularly during pregnancy puts infants on the road to bilingualism by birth. According to new findings in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Scienc ...

Recommended for you

Updating memory for fact and fiction

14 hours ago

Sunlight can make people sneeze. Sounds ludicrous? But it's true - it's called a photic sneeze reflex, and can occur in about one out of four people. Did you believe that fingerprints are unique to each individual? That, ...

Wide-faced men negotiate nearly $2,200 larger signing bonus

15 hours ago

Having a wider face helps men when they negotiate for themselves but hurts them when they are negotiating in a situation that requires compromise. Additionally, men who are more attractive are better collaborators compared ...

Can you be addicted to the internet?

15 hours ago

A McMaster researcher is trying to understand how much time people spend online – and whether their habits pose a danger to their physical or mental health.

Controlling childbirth pain tied to lower depression risk

23 hours ago

Controlling pain during childbirth and post delivery may reduce the risk of postpartum depression, writes Katherine Wisner, M.D., a Northwestern Medicine® perinatal psychiatrist, in a July 23 editorial in Anesthesia & An ...

User comments