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New research shows Canterbury’s people still need support

New research shows Canterbury’s people still need support

New research shows many Cantabrians are still struggling to cope with the effects of the earthquakes, with tiredness a major issue in the region.

The All Right? project commissioned Opinions Market Research to undertake both qualitative and quantitative research into Cantabrians’ mental health and wellbeing. This involved a telephone survey of a representative sample of 800 residents over February and March 2014. The findings have been compared with research the project undertook in 2012.

Overall, All Right? manager Sue Turner says the results make sobering reading.

“While there is positive data, it’s clear large numbers of Cantabrians are still finding life difficult due to the earthquakes and related stressors. Many are still struggling to come to terms with all that has happened, most of us are still grieving for what we’ve lost and fatigue is really starting to set in.”

Key findings include:

More than two thirds (67%) reported that they are still grieving for what’s been lost in Christchurch

65% of Christchurch city residents reported feeling tired in 2014 – a 10% increase on 2012

Less than one half (48%) of respondents reported regularly sleeping well

Almost half (44%) of those surveyed say they’re still struggling to come to terms with all that has happened as a result of the earthquakes

More respondents agreed that it felt like their life has been normal over the last 12 months (66% in 2014, 60% in 2012)

Sue Turner says a lot of the findings are to be expected.

“International research shows that recovering from a disaster emotionally can take between 5 and 10 years. We also know that Cantabrians have had it extra hard with the large number of earthquakes and the lengthy recovery. It is no wonder the fatigue factor is so high.”

The research also found significant differences between the wellbeing of Christchurch residents who have had their insurance claims settled and those who haven’t.

Sue Turner says this data won’t surprise Cantabrians.

“Dealing with insurance claims and property repairs can be stressful so it’s no wonder those who’ve settled their claims generally feel better than those who haven’t. Delays in settling claims are clearly having an impact on Cantabrians’ wellbeing.”

“It’s also important to note that having your claim settled is not a panacea for good wellbeing. Around a third of those with settled claims still feel stressed, frustrated and feel their lives full of uncertainty,” says Sue Turner.

Cantabrians doing less to look after their mental health and wellbeing

The research also looked at whether Cantabrians are taking steps to look after their own mental health and wellbeing by including questions related to the ‘five ways to wellbeing’.

The five ways (Connect, Give, Keep Learning, Be Active and Take Notice) were developed by the New Economics Foundation in the United Kingdom after an extensive, unparalleled research project. They are considered to be the 5+ a day (the fruit and vege rule) for wellbeing. You can read more about the five ways at allright.org.nz

All Right? public health specialist Dr Lucy D’Aeth says the new research shows Cantabrians need to do more to prioritise their own wellbeing.

Key results include:

A third of respondents agreed that they didn’t socialise with people as much as three years ago (33% in 2014, 31% in 2012).

Fewer respondents reported keeping physically active regularly (50% in 2014 compared with 56% in 2012).

Fewer people are doing a lot to stimulate their minds (62% in 2014 and 68% in 2012).

Fewer people felt connected to nature (40% in 2014, 46% in 2012).

Fewer respondents reported that they regularly ate well (75% in 2014, 80% in 2012).

Fewer people noticed the simple things that give them joy a lot (71% in 2014, 63% in 2012).

About a third of respondents agreed that they had more health issues than they did before the earthquakes (35% in 2014, 33% in 2012).

Dr D’Aeth says these results indicate that people aren’t investing time in the little things which can have the biggest impact on their wellbeing. “We all know that the five ways to wellbeing aren’t going to fix anybody’s house or help with the other big issues Cantabrians are facing. But having good mental health and wellbeing helps us get the best out of life and cope better – even when we’re facing things outside our control.”

“You don’t have to look far to find a tired Cantabrian – many of us know firsthand how tiring our recovery can be. So it’s more important than ever that we all remember that there are little things – like getting together with a friend, taking a walk in the park or noticing a beautiful sunset – we can do to improve our wellbeing. And those little things may seem unimportant but they’re not…they’re actually what make life worth living,” says Lucy D’Aeth.

Canterbury health system under pressure

Canterbury DHB chief executive David Meates says All Right’s research findings will come as no surprise to people working in the Canterbury Health System.

“The health of Cantabrian’s has been well and truly put to the test over the last three and a half years,” says David Meates.

“Nowhere is more evident than in mental health services. There has been a 35% increase of new patients since 2011 for psychiatric emergency services, and a 40% demand increase for our child and youth community mental health services. Every month we see an average of 400 patients needing emergency psychiatric treatment,” says David Meates.

“Those presenting to mental health services are just the tip of the iceberg. As All Right’s research shows, many in our community are bogged down and struggling with recovery-related issues such as dealing with broken homes, insurance claims, poor roading and the loss of community facilities,” says David Meates.

“All of this is having a big impact on people’s health, with one third of those surveyed saying they have more health issues now than they did before the earthquakes,” says Mr Meates.

Meates credits people working in the mental health, community support and counselling sectors for coping with the avalanche of work post-quake.

The Canterbury Support Line is able to arrange help for any Cantabrians who are finding life difficult. Their number is 0800 777 846


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