Investigating the relationship between depression and psychosocial factors after the Canterbury 2011 Earthquakes in New Zealand.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMasters of Science
Earthquake events can be sudden, stressful, unpredictable, and uncontrollable events in which an individual’s internal and external assumptions of their environment may be disrupted. A number of studies have found depression, and other psychological symptoms may be common after natural disasters. They have also found an association between depression, losses and disruptions for survivors. The present study compared depression symptoms in two demographically matched communities differentially affected by the Canterbury (New Zealand) earthquakes. Hypotheses were informed by the theory of learned helplessness (Abramson, Seligman & Teasdale, 1978). A door-to-door survey was conducted in a more physically affected community sample (N=67) and a relatively unaffected community sample (N=67), 4 months after the February 2011 earthquake. Participants were again assessed approximately 10 months after the quake. Measures of depression, acute stress, anxiety, aftershock anxiety, losses, physical disruptions and psychological disruptions were taken. In addition, prior psychological symptoms, medication, alcohol and cigarette use were assessed. Participants in the more affected community reported higher depression scores than the less affected community. Overall, elevated depressive score at time 2 were predicted by depression at time 1, acute stress and anxiety symptoms at time 2, physical disruptions following the quake and psychosocial functioning disruptions at time 2. These results suggest the influence of acute stress, anxiety and disruptions in predicting depression sometime after an earthquake. Supportive interventions directed towards depression, and other psychological symptoms, may prove helpful in psychological adjustment following ongoing disruptive stressors and uncontrollable seismic activity.