Older Chinese immigrants suffered racial discrimination during COVID-19 pandemic

Thursday 20 October 2022

Nearly 20 per cent of older Chinese immigrants in Auckland experienced racial discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from Massey University.

Last updated: Monday 28 November 2022

Massey's Health and Ageing Research Team (HART) collaborated with the CNSST Foundation (formally known as Chinese New Settlers Service Trust) to assess the impacts of the pandemic on older Chinese immigrants in 2022.

The research found that 19 per cent of older (55 – 80 years) Chinese immigrants in Auckland reported feeling discriminated against due to being Chinese or felt the need to reduce interactions and activities due to concerns about discrimination since the start of the pandemic.

Racial discrimination against Chinese and other Chinese-looking Asians has been an on-going issue throughout the pandemic. Compared to other Chinese immigrants, the older immigrants who reported discrimination also reported higher symptoms of anxiety and depression. Around 90 per cent of the older Chinese adults who reported having felt discrimination also reported loneliness.

The mental health effects of discrimination were also related directly to poorer general health. The older immigrants tended to have a greater number of diagnosed chronic conditions, less frequent internet use to connect with family and friends and access public information, and lower adequacy of income.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Polly Yeung says that around one fifth of the older Chinese immigrants felt that the pandemic had an impact on their physical, mental, and economic wellbeing.

“Older Chinese immigrants are an emerging demographic group but also an underrepresented group within ageing studies in Aotearoa New Zealand. We need to generate more scientific evidence to better understand the long-term impacts of experiences of discrimination on their health and wellbeing, and what factors can help address these negative effects,” Associate Professor Yeung says.

“As racial discrimination is a violation of human rights, and a form of social injustice and exclusion, more action is needed at individual, organisational and societal levels to provide effective practice, policy and research responses.”

The research was funded by the Health Research Council.

Read the full research report The Wellbeing of Older Chinese Immigrants following the COVID-19 Pandemic in Aotearoa New Zealand here.

Associate Professor Polly Yeung

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