It Is Not Black and White: Discrimination and Distress in Hawai'i

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Abstract

Objective: This study investigates whether the strength of the relationship between perceived discrimination and psychological distress varies by race/ethnicity, gender, and the number of years of residence in Hawai'i. Method: Our sample consisted of 1,036 undergraduate students at a university in Hawai'i and the survey was conducted in 2012–2013. The sample was composed of 55% women and the average age was 21. The students reported their racial/ethnic backgrounds as White (19%), Japanese (21%), Filipino (16%), Chinese (10%), Native Hawaiian (14%), Pacific Islander (4%), other Asian (6%), and other race/ethnicity (10%). Results: Interaction effect results revealed that Whites who had experienced everyday discrimination had higher levels of psychological distress than racial ethnic minorities. Women who had experienced everyday discrimination were more distressed than men and more distressed by a lower threshold level of discrimination. Furthermore, those who had lived in Hawai'i for a longer duration and experienced everyday discrimination were more distressed. Conclusions: Our findings draw attention to how the psychological effects of discrimination vary by racial/ethnic group, gender, and location in the United States. The relationship between everyday discrimination and higher levels of psychological distress especially among those who have lived in Hawai'i longer, women, and Whites indicates that targeted medical and social interventions are needed to protect the mental health of college students.

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