Stress higher in hard-hit areas of Chch

16:00, Oct 22 2012

Depression, anxiety and stress were higher in seriously damaged parts of Christchurch after the February 2011 earthquake, researchers have found.

University of Canterbury researchers Amy Rowlands and Charlotte Renouf studied 400 residents in Mt Pleasant, Avonside, Cashmere and Hornby to see how psychological responses to the 2011 quakes differed among communities.

They conducted door-to-door surveys in two suburbs each, comparing one that had been hit hard with one that was relatively unscathed.

They first approached participants in June 2011 and reassessed them between October and December.

They found levels of acute stress, anxiety and depression had changed little last year for those living in hard-hit areas.

"Prolonged periods of helplessness and ongoing post-disaster disruptions, along with distress and anxiety, were factors associated with depression," Rowlands said.

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"The more physically affected [communities] were dealing with ongoing daily disruptions, shovelling silt from liquefaction all over again following large aftershocks . . . and living in severely damaged houses."

Renouf focused on the impact of aftershocks and found that while residents in both her suburbs suffered acute stress, those in the harder-hit areas suffered "clinically elevated depression and anxiety".

Better direction to services that helped people to cope with depression and other psychological symptoms "may prove helpful in psychological adjustment following the ongoing disruptive stressors and quakes", Rowlands said.

The findings are the first part of a six-suburb study investigating psychological responses after the quakes.

The Press