Abstract: Examining the Mental Health Impact of Asian American Positionality in the Midst of Racism during COVID19 (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Examining the Mental Health Impact of Asian American Positionality in the Midst of Racism during COVID19

Friday, January 13, 2023
Hospitality 3 - Room 432, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Miwa Yasui, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Eunseok Jeong, Doctoral student, University of Chicago, Chicago
Yoonsun Choi, PHD, Professor, University of Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: From “model minority” to “yellow peril,” Asian Americans have become the scapegoat for the COVID19 pandemic. With hate crimes reported nationwide, Asian Americans are now ostracized, shunned, and living in fear of their safety despite this country being the only home they know. The surge in racial rhetoric has further pigeonholed Asian Americans as the “perpetual foreigner,” not being accepted as “true Americans” regardless of where they were born or how many years they have lived in the U.S. Thus, the compounding effects of racism, xenophobia and the stress of life in a pandemic on the mental health conditions of Asian Americans is far reaching and lasting. This is of great concern, as among all races, Asian Americans utilize mental health services the least. Using a newly developed measure on the fears of racism due to COVID, this study examines the mental health impact of the rising fears of racism due to the pandemic and how racial stereotypes may mediate this effect among Chinese American young adults.

Method: This study examines the impact of racism during the pandemic on the mental health outcomes among 153 Asian American young adults, and further, how their positionality may impact this association. Exploratory factor analyses were conducted to examine the factor structure of the newly developed measure on fears of racism during COVID. Next, regression analyses examined the relations among young adults’ fear of racism, racial stereotypes (perpetual foreigner stereotype) and young adult mental health outcomes (depression, anxiety). Bootstrapping was used to test whether racial stereotypes mediated these associations. Analyses controlled for participant age, gender, number of years in the US, education and income.

Results: Results from the EFA indicated that 3 factor solution demonstrated an adequate fit. Three factors emerged: fears of targeted racism, racism against Asian American communities, and avoiding potential racism. All three factors were significantly correlated with the perpetual foreigner stereotype (PFS) and young adult depression and anxiety. Regression analyses indicated a direct effect of the fears of targeted racism on young adult anxiety (B = .114, p<.05). There was also a significant indirect effect of PFS (B = .0438, p<.05), suggesting that the impact of fears of targeted racism on mental health is mediated through young adults’ internalization of PFS.

Conclusion/Implications: Our findings suggest that the rising fears of racism that has surged since the pandemic indeed has significant mental health effects among Chinese American young adults, and that the internalization of racial stereotypes influences this effect. This highlights the need to actively address the psychological impact of xenophobia on Asian Americans and use this knowledge to develop programs that targets race-related stress among Asian American young adults.