Perceived Discrimination and Mental Health in Asian-American and Pacific Islander College and Graduate Students

Monday, 30 July 2012: 11:10 AM

Angela Chia-Chen Chen, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC1
Laura Szalacha, EdD2
Usha Menon, PhD, RN, FAAN2
(1)College of Nursing & Health Innovation, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
(2)College of Nursing, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to describe AAPI college and graduate studentsí experiences in racial/ethnic discrimination.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to describe the effect of perceived racial/ethnic discrimination on AAPI college and graduate studentsí mental health.

Purpose: Racial/ethnic discrimination is a salient feature of Asian American and Pacific Islanders' (AAPI) daily experiences, and has been found to be associated with their negative health outcomes. This study aimed at examining the effect of perceived discrimination on AAPI college and graduate students’ mental health.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional internet survey targeting AAPI students aged 18-35. Sample recruitment occurred via randomly selected students’ emails from the University and via advertising to student organizations and Facebook. Eligible students consented and filled out the online anonymous survey. Participants received an automatic recognition message after completing the survey, and receive a $10 e-gift certificate. Discrimination was assessed by a 10-item scale developed by Williams and colleagues (1997). We used PHQ-9, GAP-7, and PHQ somatoform module to measure participants’ depressive, anxiety and somatic symptoms, respectively.

Results: The sample included 113 AAPI students (mean age = 25; SD = 4.2); 42.5% were females. The mean score of perceived discrimination was 5.6 (SD = 5.5; Min = 0; Max = 24); about 76.9% of the sample reported experiencing discrimination. In regression analyses, students’ perceived discrimination predicted their depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms (β = .30, p = .002 for each outcome) after controlling for age, gender, parental education and sexual minority status. Discrimination predicted somatic symptoms for males (β = .47, p = .000), but not for females (β = .10, ns). No gender differences in discrimination score and mental health scores were found. Neither acculturation nor ethnic pride predicted the three health outcomes.     

Conclusion: A large proportion of AAPI college and graduate students experienced racial/ethnic discrimination and these experiences were significantly associated with poor mental health outcomes. It is imperative for school personnel and healthcare providers to constantly assess AAPI college and graduate students’ discrimination experiences and provide timely and appropriate interventions.