Study finds Asian-Americans often feel racial 'microaggressions'

April 25, 2013 by Karene Booker, Cornell University

(Medical Xpress)—Asian-Americans experience considerable everyday prejudice and discrimination, reports a Cornell study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology (Vol. 60:2). The study is one of the first to document the prevalence and effects of racial microaggressions – subtle forms of racial bias and discrimination – in the lives of Asian-Americans.

"Our findings suggest that exposure to day-to-day racial microaggressions is common and that seemingly innocuous statements, such as being asked 'Where were you born?' or being told 'You speak good English' can have an adverse effect on Asian-Americans, in part, because such statements often mask an implied message that you are not a true American," said Anthony Ong, associate professor of human development in Cornell's College of , co-author of the study with Anthony Burrow, assistant professor of human development at Cornell.

"The combination of having one's racial reality questioned, and having to decipher mixed messages, is a core feature of the microaggression experience," Ong added.

For two weeks, 152 Asian-American college freshmen in the study completed a daily evaluation of their experiences, emotions and , including a checklist of 20 racial microaggression events.

The researchers found that approximately 78 percent of the participants reported some form of racial microaggression within the two-week time frame. Overall, participants experiencing more events had more , fewer positive emotions and more symptoms of (e.g., headache, stomach ache, sore throat).

For individual participants, the racial bias events were associated with higher levels of negative emotion and more physical symptoms that day and the day after, suggesting that the experience of these daily may influence health and well-being over time. The researchers also found that racial invalidations (e.g., being treated like a foreigner or overhearing racially biased sexual stereotypes) were more prevalent and harmful than racial microinsults (e.g., being told an offensive joke or comment concerning how Asians talk).

The results have important implications for the field of mental health, the authors said. "Unintentional microaggressions, coupled with the public belief that Asian-Americans represent a model minority, may act as major barriers to effective counseling and lead to premature termination [of therapy] among Asian-American clients," said Ong.

"It may also be important for counselors to understand that some of the effects of racial microaggressions may not be immediately evident," Burrow added. "Specifically, we found that reported microaggressions negatively impacted health on the following day, thus complicating counselors' ability to identify the experiential sources of problems that may arise for those targeted."

Ong and Burrow co-authored the study, "Racial Microaggressions and Daily Well-Being Among ," with Thomas Fuller-Rowell, Ph.D. '10, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Cornell graduate student Nicole Ja; and Derald Wing Sue, Columbia University.

Explore further: Skin color matters when it comes to Canadians' health: study

Related Stories

Skin color matters when it comes to Canadians' health: study

October 12, 2011
A new University of British Columbia study finds that Black Canadians with darker skin are more likely to report poorer health than Black Canadians with lighter skin. The study also suggests that a mismatched racial identity ...

Link between racial discrimination and stress described in new study

September 14, 2011
The consequences of psychological stress, resulting from racial discrimination, may contribute to racial health disparities in conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other age-associated diseases. This is ...

Recommended for you

Suicide risk in abused teen girls linked to mother-daughter conflict

October 18, 2018
Teenage girls who were maltreated as children are more likely to entertain suicidal thoughts if the relationship with their mother is poor and the degree of conflict between the two of them high.

Study shows how bias can influence people estimating the ages of other people

October 17, 2018
A trio of researchers from the University of New South Wales and Western Sydney University has discovered some of the factors involved when people make errors in estimating the ages of other people. In their paper published ...

Infants are more likely to learn when with a peer

October 16, 2018
Infants are more likely to learn from on-screen instruction when paired with another infant as opposed to viewing the lesson alone, according to a new study.

Researchers use brain cells in a dish to study genetic origins of schizophrenia

October 16, 2018
A study in Biological Psychiatry has established a new analytical method for investigating the complex genetic origins of mental illnesses using brain cells that are grown in a dish from human embryonic stem cells. Researchers ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.

Study suggests biological basis for depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances in older adults

October 15, 2018
UC San Francisco researchers, in collaboration with the unique Brazilian Biobank for Aging Studies (BBAS) at the University of São Paulo, have shown that the earliest stages of the brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer's ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.