Post-quake snapshot shows many still suffer psychological distress

The Christchurch Cathedral which was badly damaged in the Christchurch earthquake. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Christchurch Cathedral which was badly damaged in the Christchurch earthquake. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A newly published study has given a snapshot of post-quake psychological distress, finding some people were battling anxiety and depression more than a year and a half after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

The survey, published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal, comes just days after the 5.7 magnitude Valentine's Day earthquake rattled nerves again - and just before the fifth anniversary of the February 22, 2011, disaster that killed 185 people.

Dr Caroline Bell surveyed around 120 of her Christchurch-based colleagues at Otago University to build a picture of how different work roles affected how people coped with disaster. The survey found around 10 per cent of workers were still suffering effects such as stress, anxiety and depression.

"There were people who had prior mental health difficulties, but that wasn't the whole story," Dr Bell said. "There was another whole group of people - and you couldn't really predict why they were having difficulties."

She found those in academic and administrative roles reported the biggest impacts. As previous studies had shown, people suffered not just from the trauma of the earthquake but also the stress of living in damaged homes, unresolved insurance claims, closed workplaces and family moving away.

She believed the study showed organisations needed to recognise and plan for psychological effects to give employees adequate support.

"I think a lot of Canterbury organisations have been recognising more and more, as time has gone on, that this actually had quite a big impact on their staff and that they did need to put quite a lot of energy into looking out for them."

- NZ Herald

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