The associations of everyday and major discrimination exposure with violence and poor mental health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic

Anita Raj, Sangeeta Chatterji, Nicole E. Johns, Jennifer Yore, Arnab K. Dey, David R. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on discrimination and risks for violence and mental health issues under the pandemic is notably absent. We examined the relative effects of perceived everyday discrimination (e.g., poorer service, disrespectful treatment in a typical week) and major experiences of race-based discrimination (e.g., racial/ethnic discrimination in housing or employment at any point in the lifetime) on experiences of violence and the PHQ-4 assessment of symptoms of depression and anxiety under the pandemic. We analyzed state-representative cross-sectional survey data from California adults (N = 2114) collected in March 2021. We conducted multivariate regression models adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, income, and disability. One in four Californians (26.1%) experienced everyday discrimination in public spaces, due most often to race/ethnicity and gender. We found that everyday discrimination was significantly associated with past year physical violence (single form Adjusted Odds Ratio [AOR] 5.0, 95% CI 2.5–10.3; multiple forms AOR 2.6, 95% CI 1.1–5.8), past year sexual violence (multiple forms AOR 2.5, 95% CI 1.4–4.4), and mental health symptoms (e.g., severe symptoms, multiple forms AOR 3.3, 95% CI 1.6–6.7). Major experiences of race-based discrimination (reported by 10.0% of Californians) were associated with past year sexual violence (AOR 2.0, 95% CI 1.1–3.8) and severe mental health symptoms (AOR 2.7, 95% CI 1.2–6.2). Non-race-based major discrimination (reported by 23.9% of Californians) was also associated with violence and mental health outcomes Everyday discrimination, more than major experiences of discrimination, was associated with higher risk for violence and poor mental health outcomes during the pandemic. Non-race-based forms of major discrimination independently were also associated with these negative outcomes. Findings indicate that efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate discrimination should be a focus of public health and COVID-19 rebuilding efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115620
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date15 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Dec 2022


  • sexual violence
  • sexual harrassment
  • gender-based violence
  • COVID-19
  • economic deprivation
  • poverty


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