All of Us Data Shows Resilience Lessened Effects of Discrimination During COVID-19

Last Reviewed: January 8, 2024
A cartoon illustration of a person with an umbrella in a rainstorm with lightening overhead. Raindrops are labeled “Depression,” “Threats,” “Isolation,” “Hopelessness,” and “Discrimination.” The umbrella is labeled “Resilience,” and under the umbrella, the person is in sunlight and seated on an illustration of a sleeping sun. Logo of the All of Us Research Program.

Key points

  • Participants who experienced discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic had more feelings of depression. 
  • Having strong coping skills (resilience) lessened the effect of discrimination on participants’ mental health. 
  • New research on how to develop resilience across different races and ethnicities is needed. 

Discrimination can increase feelings of sadness and hopelessness. But discrimination affects people’s mental health differently. Researchers want to learn more about why. 

In a new study, researchers looked at All of Us survey data to learn about discrimination’s effect on participants’ mental health during the pandemic. Specifically, does discrimination increase feelings of depression? Also, can resilience protect mental health? Resilience is the ability to cope with stress during difficult times. 

Having resilience lessened feelings of depression during COVID-19, even for participants who experienced discrimination. These findings were published in Frontiers in Psychology

What Is Resilience? 

People who are more resilient deal with stress better and bounce back from difficult times. Resilient people believe they can: 

  • Find creative ways to change difficult situations 

  • Control their reactions, regardless of what happens to them 

  • Grow in positive ways by dealing with difficult situations 

  • Find ways to replace any losses they experience in life 

Using All of Us Surveys to Study Complex Experiences 

The researchers looked at survey responses shared by nearly 52,000 All of Us participants. The surveys asked about many different topics: 

  • Feelings of sadness and depression 

  • Experiences with discrimination 

  • Experiences during COVID-19  

  • How participants adapt to stress (resilience) 

Experiencing discrimination was linked to worse mental health. If discrimination increased during the pandemic, so did symptoms of depression. But participants with more resilience had better mental health over time than those with lower resilience. This shows that resilience may protect mental health when people experience discrimination. 

Having resilience was most protective for participants who identified as Asian, Black/African American, and White. When participants from these groups had higher resilience, they also had better mental health. This was true even if they experienced discrimination. 

For participants who identified as Hispanic/Latino, multiracial, or belonging to other racial or ethnic groups, the impact of resilience on discrimination was not as clear. 

Learning More About Resilience 

There is still more to learn about discrimination, resilience, and mental health. This study looked at discrimination overall. But people face different kinds of discrimination, and more work is needed to end all discrimination. Resilience might protect people’s mental health against some kinds of discrimination more than others. 

This study also looked at resilience as a personality trait that does not change. But people can learn to be more resilient. And resilience can change depending on a person’s resources or social support. 

This study shows that resilience can protect mental health for some groups who experience discrimination. Further research is needed to learn how different people develop resilience. Then health professionals could better help people of different races, ethnicities, and cultures use resilience during stressful situations. 

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