New research on family violence and sexual violence among East Asian, South Asian, Chinese and Indian Youth

Wed 18 Aug 2021

New research on health and wellbeing for Asian young people living in Aotearoa New Zealand includes questions about experiences of family violence and unwanted sexual contact.

The Adolescent Health Research Group has published a new report that explores health and wellbeing among East Asian, South Asian, Chinese and Indian secondary school students in Aotearoa.

The report, East Asian, South Asian, Chinese and Indian Students in Aotearoa: A Youth19 Report (2021), draws on data from the Youth19 Rangatahi Smart Survey (Youth19). More than 7000 young people in Aotearoa New Zealand were surveyed in Youth19 including 26% who identified with an Asian ethnic group.

The survey asks a range of questions about health and wellbeing including witnessing or experiencing family violence and unwanted sexual contact. 

Across all Asian ethnic groups, young people were more likely to report witnessing violence (an adult hitting or physically hurting another adult or child) at home in the previous 12 months compared to European students (6%):

  • 12% of East Asian students 
  • 14% of South Asian students; this was higher for South Asian females (17%) than males (11%)
  • 12% of Chinese students 
  • 13% of Indian students  

Across all Asian ethnic groups, young people were also more likely to report they had been hit or physically hurt by an adult at home in the previous 12 months compared to European students (6%):

  • 12% of East Asian students 
  • 14% of South Asian students; this was higher for South Asian females (17%) than males (10%)
  • 11% of Chinese students; this was higher for Chinese females (13%) than males (8%)
  • 13% of Indian students 

Within all Asian ethnic groups, more females than males reported ‘yes’ or ‘unsure’ to having been touched in a sexual way or made to do sexual things they did not want to do at some time (including sexual abuse or rape):

  • 16% of East Asian students; females (19%) than males (12%)
  • 13% of South Asian students; females (20%) than males (6%)
  • 13% of Chinese students; females (17%) than males (9%)
  • 13% of Indian students; females (20%) than males (5%)

This compares to 16% of all European students.

Other key findings include:

  • one in four Asian students reported being treated unfairly by a teacher because of their ethnicity.
  • 10% of Asian students reported being bullied in school because of their ethnicity or religion.
  • 45% of Asian students felt unsafe in their neighbourhood.
  • Many Asian students reported significant rates of emotional and mental distress. 
  • Compared to European students, South Asian students in general, and Indian students in particular, were more likely to report household poverty.
  • Compared to European students, East Asian students and Chinese students were more likely to experience significant depressive symptoms and less likely to access health care compared to their European students. 

The Executive summary of the report notes:

"The use of the term ‘Asian’ is problematic as this population is not a single ethnic category. Aggregating all Asian peoples in one group fails to celebrate the heterogeneity in the group and masks important differences with an averaging effect. Whilst aggregated data are extensively used for policy and planning, this aggregation can provide misleading information relating to individual Asian ethnicities. In separate sections of this report, we disaggregate Asian youth data to provide health and wellbeing data specific to East Asian students and South Asian students as two broader ethnic groupings, followed by information specific to Chinese students and Indian students (the two largest Asian ethnic groups among the survey respondents)."

“Getting away from that overly broad ‘Asian’ label opens up opportunities for targeted interventions,” says Dr Peiris-John, co-director of the Centre for Asian and Ethnic Minority Health Research and Evaluation at the University of Auckland and lead author of the report.

The report outlines specific recommendations for schools and communities, service providers, the Ministry of Health, funding agencies, policymakers and planners, and researchers and evaluators.

For more information about the report see the related Youth19 webinar.

Other publications from the Youth19 survey include the report Negotiating Multiple Identities: Intersecting Identities among Māori, Pacific, Rainbow and Disabled Young People (2021) and a number of fact sheets and briefs. All publications from Youth19 are available at

This is the 4th survey of secondary school students. Reports from previous surveys are available from the Adolescent Health Research Group

Update: A brief summarising findings on student feelings of safety and experiences of physical and sexual violence between 2001 and 2019 has been published.

Related media

Asian youth and racism: One in four students treated unfairly by teachers, study finds, NZ Herald, 28.06.2021

Asian youths face significant mental health challenges, report finds, Stuff, 28.06.2021

Image: Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

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