Stress, drinking increase in wake of quake

Increased alcohol consumption and significantly higher levels of depression, acute stress and anxiety have been linked to residents living in worst affected areas of the quake-hit Christchurch.

The association has been made by the University of Canterbury regarding Cantabrians living with ongoing aftershocks following last February's earthquake.

"The more physically affected community were dealing with ongoing daily disruptions - shovelling silt from liquefaction all over again following large aftershocks, loss of utilities, living in severely damaged houses and for others relocation as their homes became uninhabitable with further quakes, loss of neighbourhood and many community social networks had gone," researcher Amy Rowlands said.

Two-hundred participants were involved from Avonside and Mt Pleasant, and lesser affected Cashmere and Hornby were involved in the study.

Researchers carried out surveys in the four suburbs four months and again 10 months after the February 2011 earthquake to determine whether symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression had intensified or declined.

Existing psychological symptoms, medication, alcohol and cigarette use were assessed.

Clinically significant levels of acute stress were identified across the suburbs, but clinically elevated depression and anxiety were only evident in the most affected suburb - Avonside.

Levels of drinking, anxiety and depression was higher worse Avonside and Mt Pleasant, compared to the lesser-affects other two suburbs.

"People's exposure to ongoing earthquake aftershocks may have important implications for the assessment of traumatic stress-related disorders and provision of services following natural disasters," fellow researcher Charlotte Renouf said.


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