Vitamins helped beat quake stress: study

Traumatised survivors of the Christchurch earthquakes benefited from taking daily doses of vitamins and minerals, a new study has found.

Research by the University of Canterbury showed that stress, trauma, anxiety and depression for people who suffered post-quake psychological distress "improved markedly" after taking daily doses of micronutrients for a month-long period.

Associate professor of psychology Julia Rucklidge led the four-week study on 91 members of the public just 10 weeks after the February 22, 2011 disaster, which claimed 185 lives.

"We found that under high stress following a natural disaster it would be beneficial to take a supplement to compensate for the nutrient depletion that occurs when the body is dealing with chronic stress," Prof Rucklidge said.

Participants took one of two supplements - Berocca, a high dose vitamin B complex, or either a low or high dosage of a broader-based nutrient supplement (CNE), which contains more vitamins and minerals than Berocca.

"We wanted to see if we could come up with a simple solution to help people with on-going chronic stress associated with the earthquakes," Prof Rucklidge said.

"There are a lot of treatments to help people with stress associated with a natural disaster such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, medications, psychological first aid and simulators for the reductions of post-traumatic stress disorder, and many of these treatments have been found to be helpful.

"Unfortunately, medications often come with side effects that some people can't tolerate.

"The other alternatives can be expensive and more challenging to reach a large population in a short time.

"That's the appeal of using micronutrients as a treatment because you can purchase them easily and they are widely accessible."

The research has been published in the UK journal Human Psychopharmacology.

The study was conducted during a period of ongoing stress where participants experienced 45 aftershocks of greater than magnitude four, including the 6.3 quake on June 13 2011. There was also the Government announcement of homes being zoned red, green or orange, and there was constant disruption in the city.

"A lot of the participants were directly affected during this time," Prof Rucklidge said.

"It was such a successful technique that we will be conducting our studies this way in the future."