DISGRASIAN OF THE WEAK! New Study Suggests Asian Americans Are In Emotional Limbo

May 6th, 2011 | 4 comments | Posted by Jen

A new psych study examining the role of happiness on the mental well-being of Asians, Asian Americans, and European Americans has been published in the aptly-named journal, Emotion. Led by University of Washington psychologist Janxin Leu and co-authored by UW grad students Jennifer Wang (my name doppelganger) and Kelly Koo, the study interviewed 633 college students–a mix of Asian immigrants, Asian Americans and European Americans–and asked them to rate how much stress and depression they felt as well as the intensity of their positive emotions, like serenity, joy, confidence and attentiveness.

Their research concluded that among European-American participants “there was a strong correlation showing that the more positive emotions they expressed, the less depression or stress they reported.”

For Asians born outside of the U.S. “there was no correlation between positive emotions and depression and stress” found, because Asians seemed to interpret and respond to positive emotions differently. Leu discovered that happiness led to a kind of paranoia among Asians. “Happiness signals that something bad will happen next; happiness is fleeting,” she said.

As for the third group, Asians born in the U.S., i.e. people like me–and many of you reading this–the study’s results weren’t so clear.

The University of Washington news release for the study states “the correlation [between positive emotions and depression and stress] was more subtle among Asian-Americans” than among European Americans. The TIME magazine report on the study says “results for U.S.-born Asian Americans were mixed.”

Happiness: Didn't we invent this shit?

Which sounds like a polite way of saying that Asian Americans are in emotional limbo, where we need to be happy like our European American counterparts but not so happy where we start to get paranoid about it like our Asian Asian counterparts, and even when we’re happy, we’re also a little bit depressed.

Which is, um, depressing. Or not? Like, if I think positively, maybe it’s fantastic, in a best-of-both-worlds sorta way? Or do I distrust that feeling and really what I mean is that it sucks, in a worst-of-both-worlds sorta way?

I don’t know. I just don’t know. But I think maybe those researchers are onto something.

[UW: Psychologists warn that therapies based on positive emotions may not work for Asians]
[TIME: Why Happiness Isn't Always Good: Asians vs. Americans]

Inspiration for this post from Eastside Jeff and Westside Jeff. Thanks, dudes!

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4 Responses to “DISGRASIAN OF THE WEAK! New Study Suggests Asian Americans Are In Emotional Limbo”

  1. Chandra says:

    I’m Asian and I feel that way too. I don’t know why but I always get anxious when I’m too happy because I know something bad might happen to me. I recently graduated and when there are job interviews, I feel inferior and helpless to whites and blacks for I know I won’t get hired because of my race.

  2. liam says:

    I’m Asian-American. Yup, and yup. I’m in emotional limbo. It fucking sucks. At least I know I’m not the only one. It feels like nobody can relate though. ughhhh

  3. PoweredByRice says:

    Honestly, I feel like making some sort of clever remark about this study…..but I am utterly, totally….confused and have no idea what to make of it…

  4. TruePhillyCheeseSteak says:

    I remember when I first met with my therapist, I felt this emotional high that felt like it came from nowhere. I almost thought I was manic.

    I realized that I was being heard and my feelings were being affirmed; I was happy. It was confusing because I had an insane fear of feeling good. I’ve begun to uncover that fear in myself, face it in its various forms, and continue to seek happiness for myself and others.

    It’s a journey I hope more people from the community can experience and learn from.

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