East Asian Canadians face a disproportionate mental health impact from the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of targeted racist attacks, violence and discrimination, a new study says.
Based on random sampling, researchers surveyed 2,033 respondents online with questions ranging from demographic status to the impact of COVID-19 on workplaces, personal habits, risk perceptions and discrimination.
Respondents were also asked a set of standardized questions related to their mental well-being such as if they were fearful; felt that everything they did was an effort; experienced loneliness; were bothered by things that usually don’t bother them; were restless; or had trouble keeping their mind on what they were doing.
“While the current COVID-19 pandemic has had deleterious mental health impacts on all Canadians, some groups have been more vulnerable than others,” concluded the joint study by York University and the University of British Columbia, published this week by the Social Science Research Network journal.
“We indeed find that during the COVID-19 pandemic, higher incidences of acute discrimination encountered by East Asian Canadians explain their higher levels of mental health symptoms as compared to white Canadians.”
Since the start of the outbreak in Canada, there has been a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes across Canada. In Vancouver, there have been 29 anti-Asian attacks since the pandemic hit B.C., while during the same time period last year, there were only four similar cases.
An anti-Asian racism coalition, launched in response to the pandemic, has documented 138 incidents of COVID-related racism harassment, with 110 of those reported in May alone.
York sociology professor Cary Wu, the report’s lead author, said the percentage of Canadians who reported fair or poor mental health has tripled from 8 per cent before the onset of the pandemic to 24 per cent after it began. More than half of Canadians also said their mental health has worsened as a result of social distancing.
After controlling for demographic factors among the respondents such as income, education and immigration status, Wu said those of East Asian backgrounds — including Chinese, Koreans and Japanese — reported poorer mental health and more discrimination during the pandemic.
Respondents were asked to give a score to each question that best reflected their conditions, and the scores were used to tabulate their discrimination and depression indexes. Overall, East Asian respondents showed poorer mental health and cited more incidents of racism and perceived racism than white Canadians. The study is statistically significant with a P-value under 0.01.
Wu said any increase in the respondents’ experience of and response to acute discrimination is associated with the increased mental health symptoms they reported. After controlling for acute discrimination, the East Asian-white mental health gap is no longer statistically significant, explaining the contributing factor.
“Because the outbreak started in China, Chinese and Chinese-looking East Asian Canadians may have experienced more racist attacks, violence, and discrimination during the crisis than other groups,” he said.
“Not only are they facing the impacts of COVID-19 but also of rising anti-Asian attacks in their everyday life.”
Wu said previous studies have found East Asians are generally less likely to seek mental health services, and this report underscores the need for interventions and support designed specifically to address the needs of the East Asian Canadians in the response to the pandemic.
“East Asians and immigrants were less likely than other groups to use mental health services before the pandemic, due to language and cultural barriers. During the pandemic, they actually are suffering more because of discrimination, we really need to think about how we can better design our mental health programs to address their needs.”
Reposted from: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/06/19/east-asian-canadians-face-a-disproportionate-mental-health-impact-of-covid-study-says.html