Acculturative Stress of Asian International Students before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic




acculturative stress, Covid-19 pandemic, Asian international students, higher education


Acculturative stress may hamper international students' ability to succeed in the United States of America. This study analyzed the impact of a range of factors noted in the literature and compared the levels of stress they were related to before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. We collected three waves of data (total responses = 204) via an online survey from ten universities/colleges across different regions in the United States of America. The results indicated that English proficiency and sex predicted the overall acculturative stress of Asian international students, in which higher perceived English proficiency predicted a lower perceived acculturative stress, and female Asian international students experienced higher acculturative stress than males. Also, Asian international students are experiencing more sadness during the pandemic and their peers are more discriminated against during 2020. Thus, university administrators should promote English language programs and support services (e.g., gender specific student support) to effectively address Asian students’ concerns.


Download data is not yet available.


Aronowitz, M. (1992). Adjustment of immigrant children as a function of parental attitudes to change. International Migration Review, 26, 89–110.

Asmundson, G. J., & Taylor, S. (2020). How health anxiety influences responses to viral outbreaks like COVID-19: What all decision-makers, health authorities, and health care professionals need to know. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 71 (2020), 102211.

Bai, J. (2016). Development and validation of the acculturative stress scale for Chinese College Students in the United States (ASSCS). Psychological Assessment, 28(4), 443–447.

Bai, J. (2016a). Perceived support as a predictor of acculturative stress among international students in the United States. Journal of International Students, 6(1), 93–106.

Bao, Y., Sun, Y., Meng, S., Shi, J., & Lu, L. (2020). 2019-nCoV epidemic: Address mental health care to empower society. The Lancet, 395(10224), e37-e38.

Beiser, M., Barwick, C., Berry, J.W.. da Costa. G.. Fantino, A., Ganesan, S., … Vela, E. (1988). Mental health issues affecting immigrants and refugees. Health and Welfare Canada.

Bertram, D. M., Poulakis, M., Elsasser, B. S., & Kumar, E. (2014). Social support and acculturation in Chinese international students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 42(2), 107–124.

Berry, J. W. (1992). Acculturation and adaptation in a new society. International Migration, 30(s1), 69–85.

Berry, J. W. (1994). Acculturation and psychological adaptation: An overview. In A. M. Bouvy, F. J. R. vande Vijver, P. Bosk, & P. Schmitz (Eds.), Journeys into cross-cultural psychology (pp. 129 –141). Swets & Zeitlinger.

Berry, J. W. (1997). Immigration, acculturation, and adaptation. Applied Psychology, 46(1), 5–34.

Berry, J. (2003). Conceptual approaches to acculturation. In K. M. Chun, P. B. Organista, & G. Marin (Eds.), Acculturation: Advances in theory, measurement, and applied research (pp. 17–37). American Psychological Association.

Billedo, C. J., Kerkhof, P., & Finkenauer, C. (2020). More Facebook, less homesick? Investigating the short-term and long-term reciprocal relations of interactions, homesickness, and adjustment among international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 75, 118–131.

Carballo, M. (1994). Scientific consultation on the social and health impact of migration: priorities of research. Geneva, Switzerland: International Organization for Migration.

Case, D. O., Andrews, J. E., Johnson, J. D., & Allard, S. L. (2005). Avoiding versus seeking: the relationship of information seeking to avoidance, blunting, coping, dissonance, and related concepts. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 93(3), 353-362.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). CDC COVID Data Tracker. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). CDC Museum COVID-19 Timeline.,respond%20to%20the%20emerging%20outbreak.

Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, CSULB (2021, April 30). Report to the Nation: Anti-Asian Prejudice & Hate Crime (April 30, 2021) - Corrected. Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

Croucher, S. M., Nguyen, T., & Rahmani, D. (2020). Prejudice toward Asian Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic: the effects of social media use in the United States. Frontiers in Communication, 5-2020, 39.

Chae, M. H., & Foley, P. F. (2010). Relationship of ethnic identity, acculturation, and psychological well‐being among Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Americans. Journal of Counseling & Development, 88(4), 466–476.

Chen, H. A., Trinh, J., & Yang, G. P. (2020). Anti-Asian sentiment in the United States–COVID-19 and history. The American Journal of Surgery, 220(3), 556–557.

Chen, S. X., Benet‐Martínez, V., & Harris Bond, M. (2008). Bicultural Identity, bilingualism, and psychological adjustment in multicultural societies: immigration‐based and globalization‐based acculturation. Journal of personality, 76(4), 803–838.

Chu, H., & Lu, H. (2021). Acculturation, Bilateral Hostility, and Psychological Wellbeing of US-dwelling Chinese during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Health Communication, 38(7), 1281-1292.

Collignon, O., Girard, S., Gosselin, F., Saint-Amour, D., Lepore, F., & Lassonde, M. (2010). Women process multisensory emotion expressions more efficiently than men. Neuropsychologia, 48(1), 220–225.

Constantine, M. G., Okazaki, S., & Utsey, S. O. (2004). Self-concealment, social self-efficacy, acculturative stress, and depression in African, Asian, and Latin American international college students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74(3), 230–241.

Cormack, D., Stanley, J., & Harris, R. (2018). Multiple forms of discrimination and relationships with health and wellbeing: findings from national cross-sectional surveys in Aotearoa/New Zealand. International Journal for Equity in Health, 17(1), 1–15.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). The Systems Model of Creativity and Its Applications. In The Wiley Handbook of Genius (pp. 533–545). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Deng, Y., Chang, L., Yang, M., Huo, M., & Zhou, R. (2016). Gender differences in emotional response: Inconsistency between experience and expressivity. PloS one, 11(6), e0158666.

Devakumar, D., Shannon, G., Bhopal, S. S., & Abubakar, I. (2020). Racism and discrimination in COVID-19 responses. The Lancet, 395(10231), 1194.

Edmondson, Catie. “The House Passes an Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Bill, Clearing It for Biden’s Signature.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 May 2021,

Garkov, V. (2002). Is the American approach to science education the best in the world?. Journal of College Science Teaching, 31(6), 399-401.

Gee, G. C., Spencer, M. S., Chen, J., & Takeuchi, D. (2007). A nationwide study of discrimination and chronic health conditions among Asian Americans. American journal of public health, 97(7), 1275–1282.

Gover, A. R., Harper, S. B., & Langton, L. (2020). Anti-Asian hate crime during the COVID-19 pandemic: Exploring the reproduction of inequality. American journal of criminal justice, 45(4), 647–667.

Hamamura, T., & Laird, P. G. (2014). The effect of perfectionism and acculturative stress on levels of depression experienced by East Asian international students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 42(4), 205–217.

Halpern, D. (1993). Minorities and mental health. Social Science & Medicine, 36(5), 597–607.

Han, S., Pistole, M. C., & Caldwell, J. M. (2017). Acculturative stress, parental and professor attachment, and college adjustment in Asian international students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 45(2), 111–126.

Harris, R. B., Cormack, D. M., & Stanley, J. (2019). Experience of racism and associations with unmet need and healthcare satisfaction: the 2011/12 adult New Zealand health survey. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 43(1), 75–80.

Hawley, S. R., Thrivikraman, J. K., Noveck, N., Romain, T. S., Ludy, M. J., Barnhart, L., ... & Tucker, R. M. (2021). Concerns of college students during the COVID-19 pandemic: Thematic perspectives from the United States, Asia, and Europe. Journal of Applied Learning and Teaching, 4(1), 11–20.

Haynes, R. M., & Chalker, D. M. (1998). The Making of a World-Class Elementary School. Principal, 77(3), 5-6.

Huang, S. L., & Mussap, A. J. (2018). Maladaptive perfectionism, acculturative stress and depression in asian international university students. Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools, 28(2), 185–196.

Huynh, Q. L., Devos, T., & Smalarz, L. (2011). Perpetual foreigner in one’s own land: Potential implications for identity and psychological adjustment. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 30(2), 133–162.

Hwang, W. C., & Goto, S. (2008). The impact of perceived racial discrimination on the mental health of Asian American and Latino college students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 14(4), 326.

IBM Corp. Released 2016. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 24.0. IBM Corp.

Institute of International Education. (2001- 2022). Top 25 places of origin of international students, 1999/00-2021/22. Retrieved from

Iorga, M., Soponaru, C., Muraru, I. D., Socolov, S., & Petrariu, F. D. (2020). Factors associated with acculturative stress among international medical students. BioMed research international, 2020. 2564725,

Jenny, K. Y., Lin, J. C. G., & Kishimoto, Y. (2003). Utilization of counseling services by international students. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 30(4), 347–354

Jiang, Y., Lee, C. K. J., Wan, Z. H., & Chen, J. (2021). Stricter teacher, more motivated students? Comparing the associations between teacher behaviors and motivational beliefs of Western and East Asian learners. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 564327.

Jin, S. H., & Liu, C. (2014). Intelligibility of American English vowels and consonants spoken by international students in the United States. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 57(2), 583–596.

Kim, K. H. (2005). Learning from each other: Creativity in East Asian and American education. Creativity Research Journal, 17(4), 337–347.

Kim, K. H. (2007). Exploring the Interactions between Asian Culture (Confucianism) and Creativity. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 41(1), 28–53.

Kim, B. S., Atkinson, D. R., & Umemoto, D. (2001). Asian cultural values and the counseling process current knowledge and directions for future research. The Counseling Psychologist, 29(4), 570–603

King, J. A., Cabarkapa, S., Leow, F. H., & Ng, C. H. (2020). Addressing international student mental health during COVID-19: An imperative overdue. Australasian Psychiatry, 469–469.

Kirkpatrick, R., & Zang, Y. (2011). The Negative Influences of Exam-Oriented Education on Chinese High School Students: Backwash from Classroom to Child. Language Testing in Asia, 1(3), 36–45.

Kline, S. L., & Liu, F. (2005). The influence of comparative media use on acculturation, acculturative stress, and family relationships of Chinese international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29(4), 367–390.

Koo, K., & Nyunt, G. (2022). Pandemic in a Foreign Country: Barriers to International Students’ Well-being during COVID-19. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 1–14.

Le, T. K., Cha, L., Han, H. R., & Tseng, W. (2020). Anti-Asian Xenophobia and Asian American COVID-19 Disparities. American Journal of Public Health, 110, 1371-1373,

Lee, D. L., & Ahn, S. (2011). Racial discrimination and Asian mental health: A meta-analysis. The counseling psychologist, 39(3), 463–489.

Li, J., & Liu, X. (2021). Internet addiction and acculturative stress among international college students in the United States. Journal of International Students, 11(2), 361–376.

Li, J. Q., Liu, X., Wei, T., & Lan, W. (2013). Acculturation, Internet use, and psychological well-being among Chinese international students. Journal of International Students, 3(2), 155–166.

Li, J., Wang, Y., & Xiao, F. (2019). East Asian international students and psychological well-being: A systematic review. J. Int. Students, 4, 301–313.

Li, W., Yang, Y., Ng, C. H., Zhang, L., Zhang, Q., Cheung, T., & Xiang, Y. T. (2021). Global imperative to combat stigma associated with the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Psychological medicine, 51(11), 1957–1958.

Lim, W. K. (2010). Asian education must change to promote innovative thinking. Nature (London), 465(7295), 157–157.

Lin, C. (2006). Culture shock and social support: An investigation of a Chinese student organization on a US campus. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 35(2), 117–137.

Lowinger, R., He, Z., Lin, M., & Chang, M. (2014). The impact of academic self-efficacy, acculturation difficulties, and language abilities on procrastination behavior in Chinese international students. College Student Journal, 48(1), 141–152.

Lueck, K., & Wilson, M. (2010). Acculturative stress in Asian immigrants: The impact of social and linguistic factors. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 34(1), 47–57.

Martirosyan, N. M., Hwang, E., & Wanjohi, R. (2015). Impact of English proficiency on academic performance of international students. Journal of International Students, 5(1), 60–71.

Mbous, Y. P. V., Mohamed, R., & Rudisill, T. M. (2022). International students challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic in a university in the United States: A focus group study. Current Psychology, 1–13.

McMurtry, C. L., Findling, M. G., Casey, L. S., Blendon, R. J., Benson, J. M., Sayde, J. M., & Miller, C. (2019). Discrimination in the United States: Experiences of Asian Americans. Health services research, 54, 1419–1430.

Melkonian, M., Areepattamannil, S., Menano, L., & Fildago, P. (2019). Examining acculturation orientations and perceived cultural distance among immigrant adolescents in Portugal: Links to performance in reading, mathematics, and science. Social Psychology of Education, 22(4), 969–989.

Moosavi, L. (2020). “Can East Asian students think?”: orientalism, critical thinking, and the decolonial project. Education Sciences, 10(10), 286.

Naidoo, J. C. (1992). Th e Mental Health of Visible Ethnic Minorities in Canada. Psychology and Developing Societies, 4(2), 165–186.

Oberg, K. (1960). Cultural shock: Adjustment to new cultural environments. Practical Anthropology, 7(4), 177–182.

Park, Y-S., & Kim, U. (1999). The educational challenge of Korea in the global era: The role of family, school, and government. Chinese University Education Journal, 26(2), 91-120.Rajkumar, R. P. (2020). COVID-19 and mental health: A review of the existing literature. Asian journal of psychiatry, 52 (2020), 102066.

Redmond, M. V., & Bunyi, J. M. (1993). The relationship of intercultural communication competence with stress and the handling of stress as reported by international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 17, 235–254.

Rudowicz, E., & Ng, T. T. S. (2003). On Ng’s Why Asians Are Less Creative Than Westerners. Creativity Research Journal, 15(2–3), 301–302.

Sam, D. L., & Berry, J. W. (1995). Acculturative stress among young immigrants in Norway. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 36(1), 10–24.

Sandhu, D. S., & Asrabadi, B. R. (1994). Development of an acculturative stress scale for international students: Preliminary findings. Psychological Reports, 75(1), 435–448.

Stechemesser, A., Wenz, L., & Levermann, A. (2020). Corona crisis fuels racially profiled hate in social media networks. EClinicalMedicine, 23.

Stevenson, H. W., & Stigler, J. (1992). The learning gap: Why our schools are failing and what we can learn from Japanese and Chinese education. New York: Summit Books.

Tan, C. (2019). Parental responses to education reform in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Asia Pacific Education Review, 20(1), 91–99.

Tanaka, Y., Hipolito, C. J., Maturana, A. D., Ito, K., Kuroda, T., Higuchi, T., ... & Nureki, O. (2020). End coronavirus stigma now. Nature, 580(7802), 165.

Taušová, J., Bender, M., Dimitrova, R., & van de Vijver, F. (2019). The role of perceived cultural distance, personal growth initiative, language proficiencies, and tridimensional acculturation orientations for psychological adjustment among international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 69, 11–23.

Tessler, H., Choi, M., & Kao, G. (2020). The anxiety of being Asian American: Hate crimes and negative biases during the COVID-19 pandemic. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 45(4), 636–646.

U.S. News. (2020). Study: International Student Numbers in U.S. Drop. U.S. News & World Report.,enrollment%20to%20a%20future%20dat

Wang, C. C. D., & Mallinckrodt, B. (2006). Acculturation, attachment, and psychosocial adjustment of Chinese/Taiwanese international students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53(4), 422–433.

Wang, K. T., Heppner, P. P., Fu, C.-C., Zhao, R., Li, F., & Chuang, C.-C. (2012). Profiles of acculturative adjustment patterns among Chinese international students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(3), 424–436.

Wang, C. D., Jin, L., & Zamudio, G. (2021). Adult attachment, personality factors, social support, and acculturative stress of international students. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 43, 31–47.

Ward, C., Bochner, S., & Furnham, A. (2005). The psychology of culture shock. Routledge.

Wei, M., Heppner, P. P., Mallen, M. J., Ku, T. Y., Liao, K. Y. H., & Wu, T. F. (2007). Acculturative stress, perfectionism, years in the United States, and depression among Chinese international students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54(4), 385–394.

Wei, M., Liao, K. Y. H., Heppner, P. P., Chao, R. C. L., & Ku, T. Y. (2012). Forbearance coping, identification with heritage culture, acculturative stress, and psychological distress among Chinese international students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(1), 97–106.

Williams, D. R. (2018). Stress and the mental health of populations of color: Advancing our understanding of race-related stressors. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 59(4), 466–485.

World Health Organization (2021), Archived: Who timeline - covid-19. Retrieved March 12, 2021, from

Xiong, Y., Rose Parasath, P., Zhang, Q., & Jeon, L. (2022). International students’ perceived discrimination and psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of American College Health, 2022;26:1–12.

Yan, K., & Berliner, D. C. (2009). Chinese international students’ academic stressors in the United States. College Student Journal, 43(4), 939–960.

Yeh, C. J., & Inose, M. (2003). International students’ reported English fluency, social support satisfaction, and social connectedness as predictors of acculturative stress. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 16(1), 15–28.

Yook, E. L., & Albert, R. D. (1998). Perceptions of the appropriateness of negotiation in educational settings: A cross-cultural comparison among Koreans and Americans. Communication Education, 47(1), 18–29.

Young, J. T. (2017). Confucianism and accents: Understanding the plight of the Asian international student in the U.S. Journal of International Students, 7(3), 433–448.

Zhai, Y., & Du, X. (2020). Mental health care for international Chinese students affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Lancet Psychiatry, 7(4), e22.

Zhang, Y., & Jung, E. (2017). Multi-dimensionality of acculturative stress among Chinese international students: what lies behind their struggles?. International Research and Review, 7(1), 23–43. Retrieved from

Zychinski, K. E., & Polo, A. J. (2012). Academic achievement and depressive symptoms in low-income Latino youth. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(4), 565–577.



How to Cite

Cong, M., Dong, Y., & Chao, R. (2024). Acculturative Stress of Asian International Students before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 16(1).



Empirical Article