The relationship between international students' perceived discrimination and self-reported overall health during COVID-19

Indirect associations through positive emotions and perceived social support


  • Qiyang Zhang Johns Hopkins University
  • Yiying Xiong Johns Hopkins University
  • Priscilla Rose Prasath University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Sooyeon Byun University of Virginia



International students, Discrimination, Perceived social support, Positive emotions, Psychological distress, Physical health


Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of discrimination and hate crimes against minority populations including international students have soared in the U.S. This study explores the relationship between international students’ perceived discrimination and their self-reported overall health and the role of social support and positive emotions in such relationship. In total, 203 international students studying at two U.S. universities participated in an online survey. The results indicated that (1) when international students perceive higher levels of discrimination, they experience lower levels of positive emotions and have lower levels of perceived social support; and (2) positive emotions were significantly associated with both psychological distress and physical health. Perceived social support was only significantly associated with physical health not psychological distress. We also provided meaningful implications for higher educational institutions that strive to enhance international students’ overall health.

Author Biographies

Qiyang Zhang, Johns Hopkins University

QIYANG ZHANG, MSED, is a doctoral student in School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. Her major research interests include adolescents’ mental health and systematic reviews. Email:

Yiying Xiong, Johns Hopkins University

YIYING XIONG, Ph.D., NCC, is an assistant professor at School of Education in Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on international students’ mental health, mindfulness practices, and training of group counseling. Email:

Priscilla Rose Prasath, University of Texas at San Antonio

PRISCILLA ROSE PRASATH, Ph.D., LPC., MBA, is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Counseling in the University of San Antonio, Texas. Her research focuses on promoting positive mental health and well-being through exploration of strengths and health factors, group counseling, creative Interventions in counseling and teaching, and curriculum, training and program development among diverse populations. Email:

Sooyeon Byun, University of Virginia

SOOYEON BYUN, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher at University of Virginia. Her research focuses on the protective factors for children’s positive social and emotional development in early care and education settings. Email:


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How to Cite

Zhang, Q., Xiong, Y., Rose Prasath, P., & Byun, S. (2023). The relationship between international students’ perceived discrimination and self-reported overall health during COVID-19: Indirect associations through positive emotions and perceived social support. Journal of International Students, 14(1), 119–133.