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Psychological quake impact findings in Paris

Canterbury researchers to present psychological quake impact findings in Paris

June 29, 2014

University of Canterbury researchers who for three years have been investigating the psychological effects of people who survived the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes will present their findings to the 28th International Congress of Applied Psychology in Paris next month.

The results of their research so far point to substantial long-term effects of natural disasters on individual health and wellbeing which in turn impact communities and businesses.

The Canterbury research results are supported by the growing demand for support services in the community such as earthquake helplines, mental health services, and declined business performance in some sectors, partly attributed to a decrease in staff wellbeing and engagement.

Beyond the immediate effects, the sustained exposure to major quakes and aftershocks and associated stressors such as loss of property, disruption to family life and disruption to work life explains the decline in physical and mental health.

Disruptions to personal and professional life are expected to persist over the next few years. Research conducted by Professor Simon Kemp suggests that business relocation decisions have a significant impact on the lifestyle and wellbeing of city residents, as they affect availability of employment, residential areas, transportation systems, leisure centres, and valued community buildings.

But it is not all bad news. Promising findings from Professor Julia Rucklidge’s research reveals that micronutrients like vitamins and minerals can make a positive contribution in the treatment of psychological symptoms among individuals exposed to a major stressor. This indicates that there may be fairly inexpensive treatment options for people undergoing psychological and financial hardships characteristic of a post-disaster situation.

Other research conducted by University of Canterbury’s Employee Resilience Research group - Dr Joana Kuntz, Dr Katharina Näswall and Dr Sanna Malinen - shows the physical and mental states of disaster survivors are the result of both work and non-work factors, and suggests the need for comprehensive support strategies.

``Throughout the recovery process, even if the need for tangible goods decreases, sustained psychosocial support from families, organised community groups, trained professionals and the workplace is critical to developing resilience and facilitating recovery,’’ Dr Kuntz says.

``For businesses, this means they have much to gain from thinking long-term about support plans for their staff following a major disaster, and from expanding the scope of workplace diagnoses to include information about workers’ home life.

``Successful businesses exhibit an all-inclusive approach to worker health and wellness, which is reflected in performance outcomes and positively contributes to the recovery of individuals and their communities.’’

The Canterbury researchers will share and discuss their research with colleagues and practitioners and the Paris conference on July 8 to 13.


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