Potential Impact of COVID-19–Related Racial Discrimination on the Health of Asian Americans

Chen, Justin A.; Zhang, Emily; Liu, Cindy H.
American Journal of Public Health

Anti-Asian discrimination and assaults have increased significantly during the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, contributing to a “secondary contagion” of racism. The United States has a long and well-documented history of both interpersonal and structural anti-Asian discrimination, and the current pandemic reinforces longstanding negative stereotypes of this rapidly growing minority group as the “Yellow Peril.”We provide a general overview of the history of anti-Asian discrimination in the United States, review theoretical and empirical associations between discrimination and health, and describe the associated public health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, citing relevant evidence from previous disasters in US history that became racialized.Although the literature suggests that COVID-19 will likely have significant negative effects on the health of Asian Americans and other vulnerable groups, there are reasons for optimism as well. These include the emergence of mechanisms for reporting and tracking incidents of racial bias, increased awareness of racism’s insidious harms and subsequent civic and political engagement by the Asian American community, and further research into resilience-promoting factors that can reduce the negative health effects of racism.