The Canterbury earthquakes were a 'ticket to change' for some survivors, a researcher has found.

Fourth year University of Canterbury marketing student Meagan Parker spent four months researching post-quake outlooks and said many people were glad the earthquakes happened because it forced them to break out their mundane existences.

"The quakes gave people an excuse to try new things they've always wanted to. Feeling close to death gave them an opportunity to live life more,'' Ms Parker said in her honours dissertation.

Some people took the opportunity in the aftermath of the 2010 and 2011 quakes to rethink their entire lives and try something they'd always wanted to do.


The quakes also had the effect of lessening the attachment people had to sentimental objects.

"These objects represented a part of their life that has passed. For example, people's houses, which are very special to them, also represented them being stuck in a life they weren't happy with,'' Ms Parker said.

"People stopped having an attachment to previously important items and became more attached to mundane items that previously carried no meaning.''

While some survivors were holding on to their previous lives and wanted to go back to how things were, others had transcended their old attachment to possessions.

"It is no longer the nice car and nice house, but finding meaning in different, non-physical things, like helping others. They saw the earthquakes as a 'ticket to change' because their lives felt like Groundhog Day,'' Ms Parker said.

"The quakes gave them an opportunity to shift their values and possessions became less important. This is post-traumatic growth where positive psychological change is experienced as a result of a struggle with highly challenging circumstances.

Ms Parker, supervised by Dr Ekant Veer and Dr Michael Hall, said some people she talked to said their houses were mostly trashed, apart from one or two small items, and they held dearly on to those items as survivors of the earthquakes.