The risks for individuals AAPI

While all LGBTQIA+ people – regardless of ethnicity – face mental health risks, new data indicates that some marginalized groups face unique issues due to their cultural background. One such group is Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). Recent research has revealed higher rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, economic hardship, and discrimination within the AAPI LGBTQIA+ community, showing a need for tailored resources to meet the unique needs of this population.

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Why do Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who identify as LGBTQIA+ face increased mental health risks? Image credit: Sergei Filimonov/Stocksy.

It is estimated that there are more than 11.3 million adults in the United States who identify as LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Yet others identify as queer, intersex, asexual, or fit elsewhere on the gender and sexuality spectrum (LGBTQIA+).

Previous research shows that LGBTQIA+ people face a number of mental health disparities. A study published in 2016 found that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults were twice as likely have mental health issues – like anxiety and depression – as heterosexual adults.

And data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – collected between 2015 and 2019 – indicates that young people identifying as gay or bisexual lesbians were between three and four times as likely to attempt suicide as students who identify as heterosexual.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has not only seen an increase in discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) people, in general, but also increased health disparities and risks among LGBTQIA+ people who have multiple racial or ethnic identities.

Today, researchers find that different marginalized groups within the LGBTQIA+ community face even greater disparities in mental health due to cultural, economic, and social differences. The AAPI is one such group.

A total of 3% of LGBT people in the United States are AAPI. AAPI LGBTQIA+ people face different challenges than other LGBTQIA+ populations. These challenges can include immigration status and language barriers.

About 82% of AAPI LGBTQIA+ people said they had experienced discrimination or harassment because of their sexual orientation; the same proportion said they had been discriminated against or harassed because of their ethnic origin.

Additionally, many AAPI migrant parents find it difficult to accept that their child is LGBTQIA+ due to internalized stereotypes about members of this community.

In May 2021, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law released a report on AAPI adults who identify as LGBT in the United States. The researchers analyzed a variety of data sets regarding different characteristics, including mental health and economic status, and how they compared to those of cisgender and heterosexual AAPI adults.

When it comes to mental health, the researchers found that about 21% of LGBT AAPI adults had been diagnosed with depression, compared to just 7% of cisgender and heterosexual AAPI adults. Additionally, LGBT AAPI adults were more likely to engage in high-risk health behaviors, such as smoking and heavy drinking, than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts.

According to the report, LGBT AAPI adults were also more likely to experience economic insecurity. Previous research shows that a lower socioeconomic status is often linked to an increase in mental health problems.

The Williams Institute study found that about 21% of LGBT AAPI adults had an annual household income of less than $24,000. Additionally, LGBT AAPI adults were more likely to face unemployment and food insecurity.

According to Dr. Bianca DM Wilson – Senior Public Policy Fellow at the Williams Institute and lead author of this report – the economic insecurity of AAPI LGBT people is similar to the disparities experienced by the broader LGBT community.

The financial situation of LGBT AAPI people is directly affected by several factors, including discrimination, minority stress and rejection, as well as some indirect mental health factors.

Dr. Wilson also said Medical News Today that it is important to note that while gender identity and sexual orientation are important in terms of economic issues for all AAPI individuals, researchers also found significant differences in impact on Asian groups Americans and Pacific Islanders:

“There were significant differences, particularly economic, both [as in terms of] some of the health indicators, between people who would identify or be grouped as “Asian American” and “Pacific Islander”. And in particular, we find that a greater percentage of Pacific Islander Native Hawaiian adults, whether LGBT or not, lived on lower incomes than all Asian Americans.

Additionally, researchers found differences between Asian American LGBT adults and Pacific Islander LGBT adults. For example, Dr. Wilson reported that Pacific Islander LGBT adults are having children at about the same rate as their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts.

However, this is not the case for Asian American LGBT adults. This, she says, shows that even social life is different for the two groups.

“Differences between the experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Hawaiians in the United States are likely a function of many factors,” Dr. Wilson explained. “We know that historically, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, their economic and health outcomes are discussed as a result of colonization and the historical trauma of American colonization and imperialism with the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii.”

Dr Wilson added that these factors and their impact on the transmission of language, culture and traditional practices, as well as their impact on health, education and social well-being, may explain the differences between two groups.

LGBT AAPI adults are not the only population facing mental health issues. According to a report published by The Trevor Project in April 2022, 40% of LGBTQ AAPI youth ages 13-24 have seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 16% have attempted suicide in the past year. past year.

Additionally, 54% of LGBTQ youth in the AAPI said they had experienced discrimination based on their race or ethnicity in the past year, and 10% had experienced discrimination based on their child status. immigration.

“While the LGBTQ AAPI youth in our sample have their own individual experiences, and we cannot infer an exact cause why they report such high levels of discrimination, it is important to view this data with an understanding of the history,” Dr. Myeshia Price, senior researcher at the Trevor Project and co-author of this study, explained for DTM.

“AAPI people have had to endure a heartbreaking legacy of discrimination in the United States, based on their racial and ethnic origins. Today, the AAPI community continues to face isolation, discrimination and bullying because of their identity – and these negative experiences have only been compounded by the harmful stereotypes and offensive discourse around them. of the coronavirus pandemic in recent years. The marginalization of these young people based both on their identity as AAPI people and as LGBTQ people can greatly contribute to the discrimination they face.

– Dr. Myeshia Award

Like the previous study, the Trevor Project report also found differences between Asian American and Pacific Islander LGBTQ young adults.

Researchers found that Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth were more likely to be “open” to others about their sexual orientation than Asian American LGBTQ young adults.

However, LGBTQ young people from the Pacific Islands, in particular, reported higher levels of discrimination and physical violence because of their gender identity, as well as lower mental health indicators, including the highest rate of anxiety and self-harm.

With higher mental health risks and disparities within the overall LGBTQIA+ community, researchers are currently investigating different pathways to provide better care.

Some voices are calling for the use of digital tools to reduce mental health disparities among the LGBTQIA+ youth population.

Recent research has also looked at ways to improve access to mental health care resources for LGBTQIA+ people living in semi-rural communities. And researchers have even explored how pets can help LGBTQIA+ people cope with stress and other mental health issues.

In addition to research for the broader LGBTQIA+ community, Dr. Price said there is also a need for mental health resources developed for the unique needs of young and adult AAPI LGBTQIA+ populations.

“Our findings underscore the protective nature of family, community, and racial/ethnic significance for LGBTQ youth in AAPI,” she explained.

“This highlights the need for caregivers to support and affirm the young people in their lives in their AAPI and LGBTQ identities. It also means caregivers need to invest time and effort in learning these intersecting identities and, most importantly, asking the young people in their lives how best to support them. Additionally, given the importance of parents and family within this community, providing resources and support to parents, families and community leaders of AAPI’s LGBTQ youth is an integral part of the response.

– Dr. Myeshia Award

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