New Research Shows Effect of Earthquakes And Recovery on Cantabrians’ Mental Health
The All Right? campaign has released its latest survey on Cantabrians’ mental health as the region recovers from the earthquakes.
The research was carried out by Opinions Market Research in November 2015. It consisted of a survey of a representative sample of 800 randomly selected individuals, aged 15 years or older living in Christchurch and the Waimakariri and Selwyn Districts, as well as eight focus groups.
Sue Turner, All Right? Manager, says the research was carried out before Sunday’s Valentine’s Day quake.
“While it’s likely the Valentine’s Day earthquake, and the resulting aftershocks, affected the region’s collective mental wellbeing, we expect that for most individuals that will only be temporary,” says Sue Turner.
The research shows there has been some improvement in how people are feeling since the survey was first carried out in 2012.
“The results show fewer of us were still worried about another big earthquake (42% in this survey compared with 54% in 2012) and fewer of us felt that life was worse now than before the quakes (28% in this survey compared with 38% in 2012). The research also showed there was a lot of hope and optimism in the region with 79% of those surveyed saying they felt lucky, 91% happy and 73% were excited about the future.”
However, Sue Turner says the research showed it was clear that the earthquakes and recovery related-stressors were still affecting Cantabrians’ wellbeing, with 61% of those surveyed still grieving for what we’ve lost.”
Sue Turner says unsettled insurance claims are also still having a negative impact on how people feel.
“More than a third of those with an unsettled claim said their living situation gets them down – nearly three times as many as those with settled claims (12%). And half of those with unsettled claims said their life is much worse than before the earthquakes, compared with 26% of those with settled claims,” Sue Turner says.
The findings reflect the international literature on recovery after major disasters.
“We know from overseas research that psychosocial recovery after a natural disaster can take up to a decade. We also know that what’s happened in Canterbury is unprecedented in that it’s had more than one natural disaster over a long period and has had a high number of secondary stressors. That means we expect the recovery to be even longer here.”
The people of Canterbury still need to take extra care of their mental health and wellbeing.
“If we look after our mental health we will cope with stress better. Just like eating healthily and exercising improves our physical health, there are things we can all do to improve out mental health – even when we life is really stressful,” Sue says.
“Routine and focusing on the things in your life you can control is really important - that’s things like getting together with family and friends, taking time to relax and enjoy life, exploring new places or exercising.”
Sue Turner says the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ is a great guideline as to how we can all give ourselves a boost.
“The Five Ways were put together by the UK government and are based on international research into what is proven to lift mental health and wellbeing. They are to give (your time to helping others – even just a smile), connect (with other people), keep learning (new skills boost confidence), take notice (of the good things in your life) and be active (even a little helps a lot).”
As we approach the fifth anniversary, Sue urges Cantabrians to not only remember those lost and to look after one another, but also to take some time to think about how far the region has come.
“It’s easy to see just road cones, cordons and empty sections but we need to notice the good things that are happening in Christchurch too. For example, the new buildings, roads being reopened, the street art and innovative projects by groups like Gap Filler. All of these things bring hope and are signs of how the region is genuinely recovering from all we’ve been through. ”