Wellbeing research paints complex picture

Monday April 15, 2013

Research released today provides a fascinating snapshot of how the Canterbury population is coping with the aftermath of one of New Zealand’s worst natural disaster.  
The research was commissioned to inform the All Right? wellbeing campaign, a Healthy Christchurch project led by the Mental Health Foundation and the Canterbury District Health Board. It was undertaken by Opinions Market Research, and included interviews with community leaders, focus groups, and a phone survey of 800 people in Christchurch, Waimakariri and Selwyn.
Dr Lucy D’Aeth, Public Health Specialist at the Canterbury District Health Board, says the research paints a complex picture of where people are with their wellbeing.
“On the one hand many people are struggling with specifics – things like dealing with insurers and repairs. On the other there are many with a new found sense of hope and optimism for the future. These are not two distinct groups, there are lots of people experiencing both highs and lows in the recovery process,” Dr D’Aeth says.
“Overall the results indicate that emotional wellbeing is not high across the Greater Christchurch population. Many people are grieving for the ‘lost Christchurch’, and there are significant numbers of people who are struggling with potential mental ill health.
Dr D’Aeth says respondents reported that there had been a ‘double blow’.
“People told us that the stress and anxiety caused by dealing with insurance, repairs, and the agencies involved in the recovery were often more debilitating than the earthquakes. This is called the ‘double blow’ in the research.
“There was also a strongly expressed feeling that too much emphasis had been put on buildings, and that we need a more ‘people-focused’ recovery.”
Dr D’Aeth says people have been impacted differently by the earthquakes depending on what life stage they are at.
“Younger, single people reported that while there are now fewer opportunities to socialise in Canterbury, job or study opportunities have opened up. On the other hand many ‘empty nesters’ and elderly said that they felt their last years of their life have been ‘stolen’ from them.”
The research shows that people’s wellbeing is closely related to the extent that the earthquakes have impacted on their lives. 
“Many living in the residential red zone felt that life was ‘unbearable’, whereas some who had had their claims settled said that they felt that ‘opportunities had unfolded’.
“The research also found people valued spending time with friends and family, and were keen to have access to affordable, local events.”
Dr D’Aeth says the research has helped to ensure the All Right? wellbeing campaign effectively ‘hits the mark’ and promotes mental wellbeing in Canterbury.
“Canterbury has changed a lot and the research shows Cantabrians are experiencing a wide range of feelings. A key focus of All Right is to help people understand that it's normal to feel a range of emotions but that if you, a family member, or friend is consistently feeling low, there is help available.”
“The campaign emphasises the simple ways, which people can, and do, take care of themselves and others to boost wellbeing.” 
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Page last reviewed: 09 July 2013