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: Bilingual immigrants report better health than speakers of one language

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

Related Stories

Bilingual immigrants report better health than speakers of one language

February 29, 2012
Healthy individuals who immigrate to the U.S. often see their health decline over time. A recent study from Stanford University suggests that immigrants who learn English while maintaining their native language might be protected ...

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

October 13, 2011
Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital have found that people who speak more than one language have twice as much brain damage as unilingual people before they exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. It's the first physical ...

Perceptions of discrimination may adversely affect health of immigrants' children, study shows

March 7, 2012
Children of recent immigrants are more likely to make sick visits to the doctor if their mothers see themselves as targets of ethnic or language-based discrimination, researchers at New York University report in a new study. ...

Recommended for you

How the shape and size of your face relates to your sexuality

September 19, 2017
Men and women with shorter, wider faces tend to be more sexually motivated and to have a stronger sex drive than those with faces of other dimensions. These are the findings from a study led by Steven Arnocky of Nipissing ...

Behavioral therapy increases connectivity in brains of people with OCD

September 19, 2017
UCLA researchers report that people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, when treated with a special form of talk therapy, demonstrate distinct changes in their brains as well as improvement in their symptoms.

People with schizophrenia have threefold risk of dying

September 18, 2017
People with schizophrenia are three times more likely to die, and die younger, than the general population, indicating a need for solutions to narrow this gap, according to research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association ...

Cognitive scientists find that people can more easily communicate warmer colors than cool ones

September 18, 2017
The human eye can perceive millions of different colors, but the number of categories human languages use to group those colors is much smaller. Some languages use as few as three color categories (words corresponding to ...

Why bad sleep doesn't always lead to depression

September 18, 2017
Poor sleep is both a risk factor, and a common symptom, of depression. But not everyone who tosses and turns at night becomes depressed.

Happiness is not determined by childhood biomarkers

September 18, 2017
Happiness is not determined by childhood biological markers such as height or body fat, according to a team of European researchers involving UCL.

0 comments

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.