Non-native language use and risk of incident dementia in the elderly

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Abstract

Cognitive reserve is invoked to explain the protective effects of education and cognitively-stimulating activities against all-cause dementia and Alzheimer's disease (AD). For non-native English speakers (n-NES), speaking English may be a cognitive activity associated with lower dementia risk. We hypothesized that n-NES have lower risk of incident dementia/AD and that educational level might modify this relationship. Participants took part in the Einstein Aging Study (Bronx, NY), a longitudinal study of aging and dementia. All (n = 1779) spoke fluent English and self-reported birthplace and whether English was their first language. n-NES additionally reported mother tongue, age of English acquisition, and current percentile-use of a non-English language. Nested Cox proportional hazards models progressively adjusted for gender, race, education, and immigrant and marital status estimated hazard ratios (HR) for incident dementia/AD as a function of n-NES status. 390 (22%) participants were n-NES. 126 incident dementia cases occurred during 4174 person-years of follow-up (median 1.44; range 0-16); 101 individuals met criteria for probable/possible AD. There was no statistically-significant association between n-NES status and incident dementia in the fully-adjusted model (HR 1.26; 95% CI 0.76-2.09; p = 0.36). Results were similar for AD. Stratification of education into three groups revealed increased risk of dementia for n-NES with ≥ 16 years of education (HR 3.97; 95% CI 1.62-9.75; p = 0.003). We conclude that n-NES status does not appear to have an independent protective effect against incident dementia/AD, and that n-NES status may contribute to risk of dementia in an education-dependent manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-108
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2012

Keywords

  • Cohort studies
  • dementia
  • incidence
  • multilingualism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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