Study shows compounded effects of racism on mental distress, alcohol use and firearm purchases among Asian Americans during COVID-19

Young Asian people wearing face masks holding signs protesting against racism.

YPSILANTI — Racism provoked during the COVID-19 pandemic is directly tied to increased firearm purchases among Asian Americans, according to a study led by researchers at Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, is the first to examine the relationship between racism, mental distress, alcohol use and firearm purchasing behavior among Asian Americans during the pandemic.

In an effort to better understand these associations, researchers collected data from a national sample of 916 Asian Americans in 2021, using geographical information to determine regional clusters with higher-than-average Asian American populations. Evaluation of the data showed that experiencing racism was both directly and indirectly related to firearm purchase.

Tsu-Yin Wu

"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian Americans have experienced multiple threats, including hostile rhetoric, abuses (or the word, invectives) shown in the media, and anti-Asian hate and incidents,” said Tsu-Yin Wu,  lead author and professor and director of Center for Health Disparities Innovations and Studies at Eastern Michigan University. “With existing xenophobia and economic challenges, our study is the first to show the compounded effects of racism on health-related outcomes and firearm purchases." 

“The study results showed that Asian Americans’ racism experience is associated with increased mental distress, alcohol use, and firearm purchases. The mechanism further illustrated that mental distress and alcohol use were also linked to firearm purchases, which means racism affects firearm purchase in a heightened way both directly and indirectly."

Among the population examined as part of the study, men were more likely to purchase a firearm during the pandemic when compared to women. Individuals 51-64 years of age, as well as those 65 and older, were also more likely to purchase a firearm when compared to those 18-30 years old. The data also shows that married/cohabiting couples (compared to all other marital statuses) were also more likely to make a firearm purchase.

“Our study findings give us insight into how racial discrimination and firearm purchase during the COVID-19 pandemic are connected”, said Hsing-Fang Hsieh, research assistant professor and Co-Director of the training and education core at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, and the National Center for School Safety’s Evaluation Director.

“Using this data, we can continue to develop and implement interventions that address the harmful effects of racism on mental health and firearm injury risks in order to mitigate this public health problem.”

Professors Wu and Hsieh are joined on the project by Ken Resnicow (University of Michigan School of Public Health and Michigan Medicine), Patrick Carter (Michigan Medicine and University of Michigan Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention), Chong Man Chow (Eastern Michigan University Department of Psychology, and Marc Zimmerman (University of Michigan School of Public Health and Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention). 


About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 13,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

January 31, 2024

Written by:
Media Relations

Media Contact:
Melissa Thrasher