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Racism linked to increased gun purchases among Asian Americans during pandemic: study

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A recent study led by researchers from Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan suggests a direct link between increased firearm purchases among Asian Americans and racism provoked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

Researchers collected data from a national sample of 916 Asian Americans in 2021, utilizing geographic data to identify areas with elevated concentrations of Asian American populations.

The results: The analysis of the data revealed that experiencing racism was both directly and indirectly associated with firearm purchases. The study also found that men, older individuals aged 51 to 64, and married/cohabiting couples were more likely to purchase firearms during the pandemic as compared to women, individuals aged 18 to 30 and other marital statuses.

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"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 lead author Tsu-Yin Wu in a press release. “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.”

Need for interventions: Wu highlighted that the experiences of racism among Asian Americans are correlated with heightened levels of mental distress, increased alcohol consumption and an inclination towards purchasing firearms. Hsing-Fang Hsieh of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and the National Center for School Safety emphasized the need for interventions addressing the harmful effects of racism on mental health and firearm injury risks.

“Our study findings give us insight into how racial discrimination and firearm purchase during the COVID-19 pandemic are connected,” Hsieh said. “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.”

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