How mask gap impacts discrimination and anxiety during COVID-19: A study on overseas Chinese during the first outbreak in 2020

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The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic brought unrelenting waves of xenophobia against people representing vulnerable populations, among them those identified as Asians or more specifically as Chinese. Although previous studies have found that some discriminatory actions against overseas Chinese were closely related to mask use during the pandemic, there is not much evidence that explicates what might be the social-cultural triggers or impact of self-other mask discrepancy. The current study aims to examine how a mask use gap impacts perceived discrimination and anxiety during the first outbreak of COVID-19, and how perceived discrimination mediates the mask gap–anxiety relationship. This was operationalized by developing a new “mask gap” variable to capture the incongruent mask use norms between Chines and others around them in the host country. Data were collected from a cross-sectional sample of Chinese (n = 745) residing in 21 countries from March to May 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic. Results showed the newly explicated “mask gap” variable was associated with a higher level of anxiety. In addition, perceived discrimination mediated the mask gap-anxiety relationship. These findings advance both theoretical and practical understandings of how incongruent social norms impact discrimination and mental health during health threat events like the COVID-19 pandemic. The results also suggest important implications for both societal responses and the mental health of sojourners or immigrants during pandemics.

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Social and Personality Psychology Compass



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