1st February 2019, Volume 132 Number 1489

Megan J Pledger, Janet McDonald, Jacqueline Cumming

This paper describes the health status of people who were in Christchurch on 22 February 2011 when a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city.1 The earthquake was an aftershock to…

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On average, people experiencing the 22 February, 2011 Christchurch earthquake had changes in their health status over time. On average, their physical and mental health initially improved (2011/12), then declined and reached a low point in 2013/14 and then improved. This is consistent with theories about people’s health status and recovery following a disaster, although it usually happens over a shorter time frame.



To explore the health status of people who experienced the magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch on 22 February 2011, across time and in comparison with other New Zealanders.


Data from five New Zealand Health Surveys (2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16), which each sampled around 13,000 people, aged 15+ years, living in New Zealand. Respondents completed the SF-12 questionnaire and were asked if they experienced the earthquake. About 1,000 respondents in each survey had. The survey data were pooled and the physical and mental health composite scores were created from the SF-12 data.


Those who experienced the earthquake had, on average, better mental and physical health composite scores in 2011/12, although not all scores were significantly better. In 2013/14, all mental and physical health composite scores indicated, on average, worse health status, and for men the differences were significant. The age groups most affected were 45–64 for women and 45–64 and 65+ for men. Some improvement occurred from 2014/15 onwards.


The pattern of an initial improvement in health, followed by a deterioration and subsequent improvement follows the heroic/honeymoon/disillusionment/reconstruction model of response to a disaster.

Author Information

Megan J Pledger, Senior Research Fellow, Health Services Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington; Janet McDonald, Senior Research Fellow, Health Services Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington;
Jacqueline Cumming, Director and Professor, Health Services Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington.


We thank the respondents of the NZHS 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 for their participation in the surveys. 


Megan Pledger, Health Services Research Centre, Faculty of Health, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140.

Correspondence Email


Competing Interests



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