23 Oct 2022

Older immigrants report worse effects from racial discrimination

6:38 pm on 23 October 2022
People in Queen Street Auckland, wearing masks.

Racial discrimination during the pandemic took a greater toll on older Chinese immigrants to New Zealand than younger ones, researchers found. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

Many older Chinese immigrants in Auckland report experiencing racial discrimination during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Massey University associate professor Polly Yeung said about 19 percent of people surveyed reported that since the start of the pandemic they had felt discriminated against because they were Chinese, or anticipated such treatment and so felt the need to reduce interactions.

The survey of more than 1000 people in Auckland between 55 and 80 years old was carried out by Massey University's Health and Ageing Research Team and the CNSST Foundation (previously called the Chinese New Settlers Service Trust).

Covid-19 was initially called the 'Wuhan virus' after the city in China where it emerged, and that fuelled anti-Chinese sentiment.

Dr Yeung, who was the lead researcher on the project, said about 20 percent of respondents said the pandemic had affected them physically, mentally or economically.

Many had changed their habits, she said: "Trying to avoid interacting outside with other people, based on the fact that they might feel that they would be discriminated because they look, or they are, Chinese."

Of the Chinese immigrants surveyed who reported discrimination during the pandemic, older people were more likely to also report higher symptoms of anxiety and depression than the younger ones, she said.

And about 90 percent of the older Chinese adults who had reported feeling discriminated against also reported loneliness.

"Older Chinese immigrants are an emerging demographic group, but also an underrepresented group within ageing studies in Aotearoa New Zealand," Yeung said.

"We need to generate more scientific evidence to better understand the long-term impacts of experiences of discrimination on their health and well-being, and what factors can help address these negative effects.

"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."

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