Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI)

It’s important to recognize that the term “AAPI” (Asian American and Pacific Islanders) or “AANHPI” (Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders) encompasses a wide range of countries, ethnicities, nationalities, and identities. Many different communities within AAPI label face their own unique challenges: from the trauma faced by those who survived wars in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam;  Japanese Americans who remember the internment camps of the WW2 era; or the anxiety felt by the children of first-generation immigrants to reconcile their cultural heritage with American life. The struggles faced by Filipinx Americans vary from the experiences of Indian Americans (not to be confused with Native Americans). Additionally, Native Hawaiians, who are grouped into the category of AAPI as Pacific Islanders, still experience generations of historical trauma from the colonialization of the islands of Hawaii. (excerpt from Mental Health America click here for more information)

A few definitions and statistics on AAPI/AANHPI:

Asian American is defined by the Office of Management and Budget as “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent.”1 The six largest sub-groups of Asian Americans are from China, the Philippines, India, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.

Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander is defined as “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.”

The AA and NHPI population consist of over 50 distinct ethnicities in the U.S. Historically, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have been lumped into an umbrella racial category. Since 2000, the U.S. Census made the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) a distinct racial category from the Asian American category. 

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing racial groups in the country, and the 2020 census is expected to reflect continued rapid population gains among these populations. 

There are over 20 million people in the United States who identify as Asian/Pacific Islander (6.1 percent of the overall population).  

  • As of 2018 there were 5.2 million people of Chinese descent, 4.5 million of (Asian) Indian descent, and 4.1 million of Filipino descent, followed by 2.2 million of Vietnamese descent, 1.9 million of Korean descent, and 1.5 million of Japanese descent. 
  • Over 420,000 (2.5 percent) of Asian Americans and more than 76,000 (7.6 percent) Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders are veterans. 
  • Nearly 54 percent of Asian Americans and 24.4 percent of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders have at a bachelor’s degree or higher. 
  • In 2018, 10.8 percent of Asian Americans lived at or below poverty level, and 6.2 percent were without health insurance. Hawaiian Natives and Pacific Islanders fared slightly worse with 14.8 percent at or below poverty level, and 8.6 percent without health insurance. 

The population of Asian Americans (alone or in combination) is projected to increase to 48 million, or 11.7% of the U.S. population by 2060. ( )

By the year 2060, it is projected that one in 10 children in the United States (U.S.) will be Asian.

The total population of NH and PIs, including those of more than one race, was 1.4 million of the U.S. population in 2016.

There are approximately 518,000 Native Hawaiians, 174,000 Samoans, and 108,000 Guamanians or Chamorros in the U.S. (2016)

By 2060, there will be more than 2.9 million people of Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander heritage in the U.S.

Demographics/Societal Issues from a recent SAMHSA report

According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, mental health issues are on the rise for Asian American/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian young adults. 

  • Serious mental illness (SMI) rose from 2.9 percent (47,000) to 5.6 percent (136,000) in AAPI people ages 18-25 between 2008 and 2018.
  • Major depressive episodes increased from 10 percent-13.6 percent in AAPI youth ages 12-17, 8.9 percent to 10.1 percent in young adults 18-25, and 3.2 percent to 5 percent in the 26-49 age range between 2015 and 2018.
  • Suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts are also rising among AAPI young adults. While still lower than the overall U.S. population aged 18-25, 8.1 percent (196,000) of AAPI 18-25 year-olds had serious thoughts of suicide in 2018, compared to 7.7 percent (122,000) in 2008. 2.2 percent (52,000) made a plan in 2018, compared to 1.8 percent (29,000) in 2008, and 7,000 more AAPI young adults made an attempt in 2018, compared to 2008.
  • Binge drinking, smoking (cigarettes and marijuana), illicit drug use and prescription pain reliever misuse are more frequent among AAPI adults with mental illnesses.

Hate crimes toward Asian Americans have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. “The NYPD reported that hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment jumped 1,900% in NYC in 2020” according to a Time article from February 21, 2021.

Now more than ever, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander youth and families need our support. 

We hope to provide those working with AAPI/AANHPI youth and families with the resources and tools necessary to offer culturally relevant programming and to support the needs of these communities in ways that are useful and beneficial to all community members.


“Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, or Pacific Islanders and Tobacco Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Nov. 2019,

“A Snapshot of Behavioral Health Issues for Asian American/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Boys and Men: Jumpstarting an Overdue Conversation.” A Snapshot of Behavioral Health Issues for Asian American/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Boys and Men: Jumpstarting an Overdue Conversation | SAMHSA Publications and Digital Products, 

“Asian American/Pacific Islander Communities and Mental Health.” Mental Health America, 

Lang, Cady. “Asian American Attacks: What’s Behind the Rise in Violence?” Time, Time, 18 Feb. 2021, 



Nancy Ooki