Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Related Discrimination and Mental Health in Five U.S. Southern Cities

Phuong Thao D. Le, Supriya Misra, Daniel Hagen, Sophia M. Wang, Tingyu Li, Savannah G. Brenneke, Lawrence H. Yang, Emily Goldmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evidence is mounting that stigma and discrimination related to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) disproportionately impact racial/ethnic minority groups, and that these experiences can worsen mental health. The present study sought to examine multiple types of COVID-related discrimination and their associations with mental health outcomes among racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. South, a region characterized by high levels of racial polarization and increasingly large numbers of undocumented immigrants.We used the cross-sectional, population-based COVID-19 Southern Cities Study (5/26/20–6/6/20) of n = 1,688 adults in Atlanta-GA, Austin-TX, Dallas-TX, Houston-TX, and New Orleans-LA. Three adapted scales (Everyday Discrimination, Major Discrimination, Heightened Vigilance) assessed self-reported COVID-related discrimination. Mental health outcomes included psychological distress, sleep troubles, physical reactions, and self-rated worsened mental health. Bivariable comparisons and adjusted logistic regression models were conducted. The study found that major discrimination was more common (p <.001) among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black than non-Hispanic Asian and non-Hispanic White respondents. All racial/ethnic minority groups experienced more everyday discrimination (p =.004) and heightened vigilance due to anticipated discrimination (p <.001) than non-Hispanic White respondents. All discrimination types were associated with all mental health outcomes (Odds Ratio; OR range: 1.63–2.61) except everyday and major discrimination with sleep troubles. Results showing greater COVID-related discrimination for racial/ethnic minority groups confirm that these discrimination experiences are not solely about the infectious disease itself, but also entrenched with persistent racism. Responses to COVID-related discrimination should also consider long-lasting impacts on mental health for racial/ethnic minority groups even after the immediate pandemic ends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-137
Number of pages5
JournalStigma and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 7 2022


  • COVID-19
  • mental health
  • racial/ethnic minorities
  • stigma and discrimination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Health Policy


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