Being bilingual has health benefits

Pete Lakeman

According to this article, language can add years to your life. Researchers were intrigued by the fact that Hispanics in the United States lived longer, and had lower incidences of heart disease than other non-Hispanic whites. This is despite them having higher instances of risk factors for such conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.

While the answer is detailed, simply put, “the rich and positive emotion lexicon of the Spanish language” had a positive effect on their “emotional reaction to stress.” It was not only the positivity of their words, but also how the flexibility of their verbs created room for the possibility that situations would improve.

According to an article on, "Multilingualism has been shown to have many social, psychological, and lifestyle advantages. Moreover, researchers are finding a swathe of health benefits from speaking more than one language, including faster stroke recovery and delayed onset of dementia."

It's still not clear if multilingual brains are neurologically different from monolingual ones.  Saima Malik-Moraleda, a polyglot who is also a fifth-year PhD student at the Harvard/MIT speech program speaks seven languages and is learning an eighth one.

 She has always wondered why anyone wouldn't jump at the chance to learn a new language. Among many other goals, she aims to temper the political and social implications of bilingualism especially in cultures where certain languages imply apparent power dynamics. 

 However, that's not what I think about most of the time. Just the other day I asked my son for a glass of water as I have done on numerous occasions. As he handed me the glass, he paused and said "dad, did you realize you just ordered a glass of water using three languages?" 

We briefly marveled at the fact that I hadn't given it a thought. To make the story short, being multilingual affords me numerous ways of understanding the world in, and around me by constantly borrowing different experiences and meanings that are transmitted by the three languages that I understand. 

While this article is focused on how a language (Spanish) can affect one's health, I see something else too; how being open to diverse ideas could enrich everyone's life experiences.

Disclaimer: this article was written for educational and informational purposes only.

Comments / 3

Published by

I'm credentialed social studies and biological sciences teacher with over twenty years of classroom experience. I'm an avid gardener and tech DIYer and I love nature walks.

California State

More from Pete Lakeman

Comments / 0