Introduction: Major disasters disrupt the infrastructure of communities and have lasting psychological, economic, and environmental effects on the affected areas. The psychological status and community effects of the devastating 2007 wildfires on the Peloponnese Peninsula of Greece were assessed six months following the disaster.
Methods: Adult inhabitants, 18–65 years of age, living in villages affected by the wildfires were selected randomly and compared with a demographically similar group living in neighboring villages that were unaffected by the fires. Regions were chosen based on the extent of fire damage in that area. There were 409 participants in the fire group, and 391 in the control group. Participants completed a questionnaire that included the SCL-90-R symptom checklist, a subjective perception of health status, and a series of items assessing views about current problems, personal values, and trust in different institutions.
Results: The fire group scored significantly higher on psychological distress compared to the control group. Both groups viewed their health status in the previous year as better than at the present time. There were few significant differences between groups in the designation of regional problems, attitudes, and values. In the total sample, 41.6% listed unemployment, and 15.0% listed poverty as the most important problem in their region. The Church was indicated as the most trusted institution by 36.7% of the group and the Government by 13.3%. A total of 30.2% did not have a trusted institution.
Conclusions: The hardiness and resilience of the fire-impacted group was evident. However, an improvement in economic conditions is needed to maintain the health and enhance the quality of life of the population living in the Peloponnese region. This improvement likely would have a positive effect on the attitude of trust in government institutions.