Sociology Mind
2012. Vol.2, No.1, 87-94
Published Online January 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 87
Trust, Social and Personal Attitudes after Wildfires in a Rural
Region of Greece
Vicky Papanikolaou1*, Dimitrios Adamis2,3, Robert C. Mellon4,
Gerasimos Prodromitis4, John Kyriopoulos1
1Department of Health Service Management, National School of Public Health, Athens, Greece
2Research and Academic Institute of Athens, Athens, Greece
3Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London, UK
4Department of Psychology, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens, Greece
Email: {*bpapanikolaou, jkyriopoulos}, ,,
{Melon, Prod}
Received August 12th, 2011; revised October 1st, 2011; accepted November 2nd, 2011
We investigated the trust in institutions, social values and personal attitudes of individuals in a part of
Greece, after a wildfire disaster. The design of the study was a cross sectional, case-control study. Data
collected were trust in institutions, social and personal attitudes, type and number of losses. The results
show that victims and controls have low trust in all the institutions and share similar social and personal
attitudes. Controlling for other variables, victims of the wildfires were less likely to appreciate stable so-
cial rules, to value the dialogue, autonomy, mutual support, modesty, wealth, equality, compliance with
law, devotion, public recognition, safety and less likely to trust the government but more likely to trust
church. This study suggests that victims of the wildfires in Greece did not appreciate important social
values which bring a society together, they have a low trust in institutions, and they have a weak social
cohesion which perhaps pre-existed the disaster; just the disaster has made all of them worse.
Keywords: Disasters; Wildfires; Greece; Trust; Social Capital; Social Cohesion
Disaster involves not only physical and psychological de-
struction but also social destruction. At the onset of a natural
disaster social theories have emphasized that the disaster can
potential bring people together to respond to common threat
(Turner, 1978).
However after a disaster the loss of important support is in-
evitable and social and community resources are weakening
exactly the time when victims need them (Kaniasty & Norris,
1993). The consequences are changes in the social system
which is the most common characteristic after a disaster. (Crocq,
Doutheau, & Salham, 1987). Because of that most of the defini-
tions of a disaster follows a sociological point of view in their
description (Lopez-Ibor, 2006). Furthermore, it has been recog-
nized that mental health outcomes are not only dependent on
the individual traumatic experiences and the losses, but also
from the destruction of the social context which happens after a
disaster (Kawachi & Subramanian, 2006; Galea, Tracy, Norris,
& Coffey, 2008).
Although a number of papers have investigated social con-
struction, norms, trust, networking and social support in the
preparedness of a disaster in theoretical and in research levels
e.g. (Agrawal et al., 2008; Barton, 1969; Dynes & Quarantelli,
1980; Jalali, 2002; Miller, 2007; Schellong, 2007) the social
responses have been less studied in the aftermath of a disaster
(Evans & Rollins, 2008). Similarly the nature of a disaster may
affect in diffe rent ways the social dyna mics and also the differ-
ent cultures and social-psychological factors, may affect also
the responses to a disaster (Evans & Rollins, 2008). Further-
more, Carroll, Higgins, Cohn, & Burchfield (2006) examined
the specific sources of social conflict in communities during
and after wildfire in the American West. They found that con-
flict occurs when social relations are disembedded by non-local
agency, and there was an apparent loss of local involvement.
When forms of interaction and problem solving imposed by
outside organizations during and after wildfire events they often
were resisted by local agencies which were also difficult to act
because of local capacity limitatio ns .
Moreover, trust is a sign of cooperative behavior: A high
level of trust facilitates cooperative behavior of a victim with
those who can help outside; opposite, a low level of trust inhib-
its cooperation and thus potentially can reduce the outside sup-
port (Montgomery, Jordens, & Little, 2008). Similarly social
and personal attitudes are surrogate markers of social founda-
tions and can facilitate or block support after a disaster.
Natural disasters are frequent events in Greece and wildfire
disasters are more frequent (EM-DAT 2008). In August of 2007
an intense and destructive wildfire broke out in the Peloponne-
sus peninsula in Greece. The fires were uncontrollable for sev-
eral days and it was estimated that about 1500 square kilome-
ters of forests, olive trees, and farmland were destroyed. Also
villages were burned in these fires and sixty people were killed
(EM-DAT 2008). A national disaster was declared and the ar-
eas affected by the fires were designated for further support.
Mental health teams were called to support the suffering popu-
lation aiming to restore psychological and social functioning of
individuals but also of fire-fighters. Similarly, research was
undertaken to measure mental health and social problems for an
*Corresponding author.
effective public planning for disasters.
The aims of the present study were to investigate the impact
of wildfires in the affected communities in terms of trust in
certain institution/organizations and their social values and per-
sonal attitudes.
Design of the Study
Cross sectional case control study.
The cases were residents aged from 18 years to 65 years old
who lived in the disaster areas. The controls were closely
matched for gender, age, educational, marital and regional dis-
tributions and were residents of directly adjoining areas in
which there was no fire damage in the immediate neighborhood.
A more detailed description of the method has been published
elsewhere (Mellon, Papanikolau, & Prodromitis, 2009).
1) Demographic characteristics (age, gender, educational
background, marital status, occupation).
2) Symptom Checklist 90-Revised (SCL-90-R; Derogatis,
1992). The SCL-90-R has 90 items, which measure the degree
of distress experienced the individual during the last 7 days,
using a 5-point scale (0 to 4) that ranges from “not at all” to
“extremely”. The SCL-90-R can be scored for nine symptom
dimensions. In addition to the nine dimentions, there are three
global indices that are computed. The Global Severity Index
(GSI), which is the sum of all the nonzero responses, divided
by 90 (if there are no missing responses) and reflects both the
number of symptoms endorsed and the intensity of perceived
distress. The Positive Symptom Total (PST) which is defined as
the number of symptoms to which the patient indicates a non-
zero response. This is a measure of the number of symptoms
endorsed. Thus it can be interpreted as a measurement of symp-
toms span. The Positive Symptom Distress Index (PSDI) is
calculated by dividing the sum of all item values by the PST;
thus, this is a measure of “intensity” corrected for the number
of symptoms. The validity and reliability of the Greek SCL-90-
R has proven to be satisfactory (Donias, Karastergiou, &
Manos, 1991).
3) Number and type of losses as a result of the fire including:
a) damage to property (Yes vs No); b) complete damage and
loss of property (Yes vs No); c) personal injury or injury of a
close family member (Yes vs No); and d) deaths of close family
members. (Yes vs No). The responses to questions a and b were
mutually exclusive. If more than one loss had happened all of
them counted (number of losses).
4) A questionnaire which examines the trust of respondents
in 12 institutions/establishments/organizations namely: Gov-
ernment, Church, Military, Local government, Private sector,
Trade-unions, Non Governmental/Voluntary organizations, Jus-
tice, Education, Police, Political parties, Media and None of the
5) A questionnaire with 21 social values in which the par-
ticipants could choose the ones which were more representative
of them. Among the social values were Prestige, Devotion,
Autonomy, Display of power, Mutual Help, Modesty, Wealth,
Equality, Tradition, Public recognition, Safety, and others (for a
full list see Table 3).
Data were collected in face-t o-face interviews conducted d u ri n g
a 14-day period beginning 6 months after the outbreak of the
wildfires (March 2008). Households in designated disaster ar-
eas and in directly adjoining areas undamaged by fire were
selected randomly from residency data provided by the mu-
nicipalities surveyed. In each household only one interview was
The study has been approved by the Ministry of Health and
informed consent was obtained from each participant.
Statistical Analysis
Data were analyzed with PASW (SPSS) v18, using appropri-
ate bivariate statistics. For the non-normally distributed data,
non-parametric tests were used. The Q Local v 2.1.11, was used
for the estimation of the standardized T scores from the raw
data for the SCL-90-R scale.
The initial sample consisted of 800 participants: 409 cases
(those victims from the disaster) and 391 controls. The two
groups did not differ between them in demographic and occu-
pational characteristics, but a higher proportion of those in con-
trol group had higher education compared to cases, while those
who finished primary or secondary school had similar repre-
sentativeness in the two groups (see Table 1).
Trust in Institutions
We compared the trust of cases and controls in 12 different
institutions/organizations (Table 2). Both groups (victims of
the disaster and controls) had a low trust in all the institutions
for which they asked (see also Table 2 column “Total”). In the
highest rate was Church but only 1 out of 3 participants had a
trust in the Church. All the other institutions had a low prefer-
ence of trust. Similarly about 35 of the participants did not trust
any institution. As this percentage was high for both groups, we
investigate this population further (see below). In addition,
there were not statistically significant differences between cases
(victims) and controls in their trust in the investigated organiza-
tions with only one exception the trust in government. More
victims did not have any trust to government compared to the
Social Valu es a nd Personal At t i tud es
The most important social and personal values for the entire
sample were dialogue and communication among people, mu-
tual support, nature, safety and creativity, while the less impor-
tant were Ostentation of power/wealth, Adventure, Variety,
Wealth, and Prestige (see Table 3 column “Total”).
For the victims nature was a significant value compared to
ontrols. c
8 Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 89
Table 1.
Demographic characteristics of sample.
Cases (N = 409) Controls (N = 391) Pearson x2
Count Column N%Count Column N%
Male 215 52.6% 202 51.7%
Gender Female 194 47.4% 189 48.3% x2 = .07, df 1, p = .8 (NS)
18 - 25 74 18.1% 67 17.1%
26 - 35 100 24.4% 102 26.1%
36 - 45 86 21.0% 88 22.5%
46 - 55 80 19.6% 75 19.2%
Age group
56 - 65 69 16.9% 59 15.1%
x2 = .93, df 4, p = .9 (NS)
Primary sc hool 106 25.9% 91 23.3%
Secondary s chool 272 66.5% 248 63.4%
College/university 31 7.6% 52 13.3%
x2 = 7.16, df 2, p = .03
Married 268 65.5% 251 64.2%
Single 127 31.1% 127 32.5%
Divorced 4 1.0% 5 1.3%
Marital status
Widowed 10 2.4% 8 2.0%
x2 = .48, df 3, p = .92 ( NS)
Professional occupation 79 19.3% 70 17.9%
Sales and customer service occupation 67 16.4% 84 21.5%
Elementary occupation 263 64.3% 237 60.6%
x2 = 3.4, df 2, p = .18 ( NS)
Table 2.
Trust of victims and control s in institutions, establishments, organizations.
Cases (N = 409) Controls (N = 391) Total
Institutions/Organizations Count Column N %Count Column N %Count Column N % Pearson x2
NO 362 88.5% 324 82.9% 686 85.8%
Government YES 47 11.5% 67 17.1% 114 14.3% x2 = 5.21, df 1, p = 0.02
NO 268 65.5% 276 70.6% 544 68.0%
Church YES 141 34.5% 115 29.4% 256 32.0% x2 = 2.35, df 1, p = .12 (NS)
NO 377 92.2% 360 92.1% 737 92.1%
Military YES 32 7.8% 31 7.9% 63 7.9% x2 = .003, df 1, p = .96 (NS)
NO 393 96.1% 381 97.4% 774 96.8%
Local government YES 16 3.9% 10 2.6% 26 3.3% x2 = 1.16, df 1, p = . 28 (NS)
NO 390 95.4% 366 93.6% 756 94.5%
Private sector YES 19 4.6% 25 6.4% 44 5.5% x2 = 1.18, df 1, p = .28 (NS)
NO 394 96.3% 369 94.4% 763 95.4%
Trade unio n s YES 15 3.7% 22 5.6% 37 4.6% x2 = 1.74, df 1, p = .19 (NS)
NO 365 89.2% 348 89.0% 713 89.1%
Voluntary/no governmental YES 44 10.8% 43 11.0% 87 10.9% x2 = .012, df 1, p = .91 (NS)
NO 381 93.2% 356 91.0% 737 92.1%
Justice YES 28 6.8% 35 9.0% 63 7.9% x2 = 1.22, df 1, p = .27 (NS)
NO 387 94.6% 368 94.1% 755 94.4%
Education YES 22 5.4% 23 5.9% 45 5.6% x2 = .095, df 1, p = .76 (NS )
NO 370 90.5% 368 94.1% 738 92.3%
Police YES 39 9.5% 23 5.9% 62 7.8% x2 = 3.73, df 1, p = .052 (NS)
NO 408 99.8% 390 99.7% 798 99.8%
Political parties YES 1 .2% 1 .3% 2 .3% x2 = .001. df 1, p = .97 (NS)
NO 378 92.4% 363 92.8% 741 92.6%
Media YES 31 7.6% 28 7.2% 59 7.4% x2 = .05, df 1, p = .8 2 (NS)
NO 267 65.3% 248 63.4% 515 64.4%
None of the above YES 142 34.7% 143 36.6% 285 35.6% x2 = .3, df 1, p = .58 (NS)
Table 3.
Social and personal attitudes of victims and controls.
Cases (N = 409) Controls (N = 391) Total
Values/attitudes Count Column N %Count Column N %Count Column N % Pearson x2
NO 191 46.7% 172 44.0% 363 45.4%
among people YES 218 53.3% 219 56.0% 437 54.6% x2 = .59, df:1, p = .442 (NS)
NO 371 90.7% 348 89.0% 719 89.9%
Stable social rules YES 38 9.3% 43 11.0% 81 10.1% x2 = .64, df:1, p = .424 (NS)
NO 404 98.8% 385 98.5% 789 98.6%
Ostentation of power/wealth YES5 1.2% 6 1.5% 11 1.4% x2 = .14, df:1, p = .705 (NS)
NO 312 76.3% 276 70.6% 588 73.5%
Autonomy YES 97 23.7% 115 29.4% 212 26.5% x2 = 3.33, df:1, p = .068 (NS)
NO 211 51.6% 198 50.6% 409 51.1%
Mutual support YES 198 48.4% 193 49.4% 391 48.9% x2 = .07, df:1, p = .788 (NS)
NO 338 82.6% 298 76.2% 636 79.5%
Modesty YES 71 17.4% 93 23.8% 164 20.5% x2 = 5.06, df:1, p = .024
NO 390 95.4% 363 92.8% 753 94.1%
Wealth YES 19 4.6% 28 7.2% 47 5.9% x2 = 2.29, df:1, p = .130 (NS)
NO 399 97.6% 379 96.9% 778 97.3%
Variety YES 10 2.4% 12 3.1% 22 2.8% x2 = .29, df:1, p = .5 90 (NS)
NO 314 76.8% 289 73.9% 603 75.4%
Equality YES 95 23.2% 102 26.1% 197 24.6% x2 = .88, d f:1, p = .348 (NS)
NO 363 88.8% 320 81.8% 683 85.4%
Compliance with law YES 46 11.2% 71 18.2% 117 14.6% x2 = 7.65, df:1, p = .006
NO 401 98.0% 379 96.9% 780 97.5%
Adventure YES 8 2.0% 12 3.1% 20 2.5% x2 = 1.02, df:1, p = .313 (NS)
NO 300 73.3% 298 76.2% 598 74.8%
Leisure YES 109 26.7% 93 23.8% 202 25.3% x2 = .87, df :1, p = .351 (NS)
NO 203 49.6% 225 57.5% 428 53.5%
Nature YES 206 50.4% 166 42.5% 372 46.5% x2 = 5.03, df:1, p = .025
NO 383 93.6% 368 94.1% 751 93.9%
Prestige YES 26 6.4% 23 5.9% 49 6.1% x2 = .08, df:1, p = .7 80 (NS)
NO 303 74.1% 271 69.3% 574 71.8%
Creativity YES 106 25.9% 120 30.7% 226 28.3% x2 = 2.25, df:1, p = .134 (NS)
NO 371 90.7% 337 86.2% 708 88.5%
Devotion YES 38 9.3% 54 13.8% 92 11.5% x2 = 4.01, df:1, p = .045
NO 382 93.4% 328 83.9% 710 88.8%
Public recognition YES 27 6.6% 63 16.1% 90 11.3% x2 = 18.11, df:1, p = .0001
NO 256 62.6% 236 60.4% 492 61.5%
Safety YES 153 37.4% 155 39.6% 308 38.5% x2 = .42, df:1, p = .516 (NS)
NO 347 84.8% 333 85.2% 680 85.0%
Having a good time YES 62 15.2% 58 14.8% 120 15.0% x2 = .02, df:1, p = .898 (NS)
NO 312 76.3% 316 80.8% 628 78.5%
Tradition YES 97 23.7% 75 19.2% 172 21.5% x2 = 2.44, df:1, p = .119 (NS)
NO 371 90.7% 369 94.4% 740 92.5%
State YES 38 9.3% 22 5.6% 60 7.5% x2 = 3.87, df:1, p = .049
Other statistically significant differences (Table 3) between
cases and controls in their consideration of important social and
personal values were: modesty which more controls rated it as
important compared to cases, devotion, compliance with law,
and public recognition. Opposite more of the victims think that
the state is an important value in the society, compared to con-
0 Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
trols, but this difference was in close proximity to be statisti-
cally significant (p = .049).
Regression Analysis
To investigate further the differences of the two groups in
both social attitudes and trust after adjusting for other variables,
a logistic regression analysis was performed. Dependent vari-
able was the binary variable cases or controls (victim or not by
the wildfire), and independent variables were the demographic
and individual characteristics (gender, age group, marital status,
occupation), the number and type of losses as a result of the fire,
the trust in the 12 institutions and the 21 investigated social and
personal values. The backward stepwise (likelihood ratio) met ho d
was used. The final more parsimonious model is presented in
Table 4. Note that some variables although not significant they
have effects in the final model and they increase the cla ssifica-
tion rate. The model classified overall 63% of cases and con-
trols correctly while for the cases only, it has a correct classifi-
cation of 70%.
According to Table 4, victims of the wildfires were less
likely to value the dialogue and communication, less likely to
want stable social rules (but both not in statistically significant
level), less likely to value autonomy, mutual support, modesty,
wealth equality, compliance with law, adventure, creativity,
devotion, public recognition, safety and less likely to trust the
government but more likely to trust church.
Further Analysis of Those Who Did Not Trust Any
As there was a reasonable high number of those who did not
trust any institution (N = 285, 35.6%) of the entire sample, we
further investigate them to see their psychological profile and
their attitudes adjusting for demographic and other characteris-
tics. For this reason a logistic regression analysis was carried
out. In this analysis dependent variable was the trust on none
institution (outcome yes, no) and independent variables were
demographic characteristics, the belonging in the victims or not
group, the nine dimensions of psychological symptoms as they
measure with the SCL-90R plus the 3 indices of SCL-90R (GSI,
PST, PSDI) and the variables of social values and personal
The backward stepwise (likelihood ratio) method was used.
The final more parsimonious model is presented in Table 5.
The total sample analyzed here was 606 subjects (mainly miss-
ing data in SCL-90R and false positives or negatives in SCL-
90R which were excluded). The number of participants who did
not trust any of the listed institutions was 181 (30%) and those
who trust any was 425 (70%).
It seems from the Table 5 that those who did not trust any
institution were more likely to be the victims of the disaster
(cases) with more losses from the disaster, with increased the
dimension of depression and paranoia (the later did not reach
statistical significant level), with fewer numbers of other psy-
chological symptoms and intensity and they were more likely to
value the compliance with law and the state, and less likely to
value the leisure.
The results show that the victims of the disaster did not trust
to government compared to the controls. Although bivariate
statistics shows that this was a significant difference, it’s statis-
tically significance disappeared in the regression analysis but
the importance of the variable is emerge through its contribu-
tion to the final model. The lack of trust in the government has
also been reported in other studies which investigated victims
of disasters (Quinn 2006).
The surprising result is that both cases and controls have a
low trust in nearly all the organizations. Even the Church which
is a very powerful institution in Greece and it involves not only
in religious maters but also in any aspect of civilian life and
politics had a low rate of trust (but the highest among the insti-
Table 4.
Regression analysis: of cases and controls in relation to trust and social and personal attitudes.
95% C.I. for Exp (B)
Variables1 B S.E. Wald df Sig. Exp (B) Lower Upper
Dialogue among people .304 .156 3.811 1 .051 1.355 .999 1.838
Stable social rules .437 .252 3.007 1 .083 1.548 .945 2.536
Autonomy .427 .173 6.095 1 .014 1.532 1.092 2.150
Mutual support .311 .156 3.948 1 .047 1.365 1.004 1.854
Modesty .503 .191 6.951 1 .008 1.654 1.138 2.404
Wealth 1.166 .338 11.890 1 .001 3.209 1.654 6.227
Equality .465 .178 6.846 1 .009 1.592 1.124 2.255
Compliance with law .758 .221 11.770 1 .001 2.133 1.384 3.288
Adventure .951 .485 3.840 1 .050 2.589 1.000 6.704
Creativity .396 .168 5.537 1 .019 1.487 1.068 2.068
Devotion .754 .240 9.883 1 .002 2.125 1.328 3.401
Public recognition 1.094 .256 18.343 1 .000 2.987 1.810 4.929
Safety .431 .162 7.111 1 .008 1.538 1.121 2.111
Government .390 .226 2.986 1 .084 1.477 .949 2.298
Church –.274 .167 2.694 1 .101 .761 .549 1.055
Constant –1.393 .243 32.893 1 .000 .248
1Reference category = controls. The signs in the estimates column (B) indicate the direction of the relationship, i.e. the (–) means that this varia ble con tr ib u tes negatively.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 91
Table 5.
Analysis of participants who did not trust any institution.
95% C.I. for Exp (B)
Variables1 B S.E. Wald df Sig. Exp (B) Lower Upper
Victims of disa st er .488 .237 4.225 1 .040 1.629 1.023 2.594
Number of losse s 8.386 3 .039
No losses –.272 1.447 .035 1 .851 .762 .045 12.997
One loss –.819 1.439 .324 1 .569 .441 .026 7.401
Two losses .003 1.472 .000 1 .998 1.003 .056 17.976
Depression .036 .018 4.161 1 .041 1.037 1.001 1.073
Paranoid .021 .012 2.743 1 .098 1.021 .996 1.046
PSDI –.022 .010 4.932 1 .026 .978 .959 .997
PST –.061 .020 9.792 1 .002 .941 .905 .977
Compliance with law .600 .361 2.756 1 .097 1.821 .897 3.697
Leisure –.587 .208 7.993 1 .005 .556 .370 .835
State 1.376 .543 6.413 1 .011 3.959 1.365 11.485
Constant –.792 1.725 .211 1 .646 .453
1Reference ca tegory = no trust. The signs in the estimates column (B) indicate the direction of the relationship, i.e. the (–) means that this variable contributes negatively.
Because we have found high proportions of psychological
distress in both victims and controls (Papanikolaou, Adamis,
Mellon, & Prodromitis, 2011) we have hypothesized that maybe
controls have been affected by the media and the distressing
images which they broadcasting every day. However this ex-
planation is less likely here. Media is difficult to rip apart the
trust in all the more important organizations in so brief time (6
months after the disaster) and destroy the civic status of entire
communities, despite their powerful influences. A previous
study (Lyberaki & Paraskevopoulos, 2002) has shown that
Greeks have a low level of trust in the most public institutions,
like political parties, the civil service, the government and the
parliament. Similarly a more recent survey (Papadimitriou,
2007) in younger Greek population (18 to 28 years old) has
reported that 90% did not trust the parliamentary members,
80% did not trust the trade unions, 76% did not trust the politics,
and only the 38% trust the church. In addition the same survey
reported that more than half (53%) of Greek young people are
unconcerned about other people and only 21.5% trust other
people and those only to some degree. This survey also reveals
that a 38% of young people may offer financial help in case of
natural disaster to the victims.
Moreover trust has been identified as a vital component of
social capital (Putnam, Leonardi, & Nanetti, 1993). Trust in
institutions is considered a central outcome measure for the
identification of social capital (Newton & Norris, 2000). Social
capital has inherited difficulties to be measured because of its
different operational definitions e.g. (Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman,
1988; Fukuyama, 2001; Putnam, Leonardi, & Nanetti, 1993).
However, a number of studies which measure social capital in
Greece agree that Greeks have a low social capital, and the
lowest when it compared with other European citizens, with
any operating definition or measured outcome used, for in-
stance, trust in institutions, social trust, social networks, social
norms, voluntary participation (Christoforou, 2005; Panagio-
topoulou & Papliakou, 2007; Sotiropoulos & Karamagioli,
2005). In addition a study which investigated social capital for
13 Greek regions found that Peloponnesus (the area where the
wildfires happened) was among the last three with the lowest
social capital (Jones, Malesios, Iosifides, & Sophoulis, 2008).
Thus it is very likely that in both, cases and controls the trust
and the social capital were very low before the disaster. Perhaps
the concept of sociocultural “disintegration” can explain some
of those findings (Leighton, 1959). According to Leighton’s
theory catastrophic events can disrupt norms and forms, disrupt
compromised social support, and reduce the feelings of a social
and moral order with consequences an increased mental health
risk. Thus if we accept the Leighton’s theory, a low “inte-
grated” society is more vulnerable and has an increased risk if
and when it is affected directly or indirectly by a catastrophic
event. Similar observations have been reported by Dynes &
Quarantelli, 1980; Dynes, 2002; Quinn, 2006.
As our data were cross sectional we cannot be affirmed that
the pre-disaster communities were already low “integrated”.
However given the above reported studies plus our data this is a
feasib le hypot hesis.
In addition and in accordance with the above hypothesis, are
the findings of social values and personal attitudes. Both con-
trols and victims shared the same attitudes and values and there
were not significant differences between them with few excep-
tions. Victims value nature more than controls (possible be-
cause they have lost it from the wildfires), they value less the
public recognition and they appear more “rebellious” as they
did not value the state and the compliance with law. Perhaps the
last two findings is a kind of reaction to establishment as hostil-
ity and blame against society in which the disaster took place
and against its leaders is common phenomenon in the aftermath
of a disaster (Lopez-Ibor, 2006). However values which help
the social cohesion, like dialogue and communication, stable
social rules, autonomy, mutual support, equality, devotion,
safety are rated quite low by both victims and controls and
there were not significant differences between them. When we
control for the other variables in the regression analysis (Table
4) the impact of wildfires became more profound in the com-
munity. The most important social values of a civic engagement
and trust have been disappeared in the victims of the wildfires.
Social norms and values like communication, mutual support,
stable social rules, equality, safety, modesty, wealth, public
recognition, adventure, creativity, and devotion are in a very
2 Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
low appreciation in the victims compared to controls. Thus if
we accept the assumption that the controls reflect a pre-disaster
level of civic status of the victims it is obvious that the disaster
has destroyed even the low levels of social norms, trust and
social capital.
If this model and explanations are hold and be replicated by
other studies, it has serious implications for the post disaster
recovery but more important for the preparation and protection
of other disasters at least in Greece. Research has showed that
human and social capital are essential components of resilience,
and individuals and communities can effectively respond to a
disaster by gather together trust, social support, and social capi-
tal to either re-establish a previous state of equilibrium or to
develop a different but still adaptive state (Kirmayer, Sehdev,
Whitley, Dandeneau, & Isaac, 2009; Paton et al., 2009; Rolfe,
2006; Sakamoto & Yamory, 2009; Schellong, 2007).
Finally we further analyzed those who did not trust any in-
stitution. Those who did not trust any institution were victims
who have more losses from the disaster, more likely to be de-
pressed and paranoid with less number of other psychological
symptoms and intensity and they were more likely to value the
compliance with law and the state, and less likely to value the
leisure. Although a first interpretation of this finding is that
they may represent an anti-social or egoistic population we
need to consider two other factors, the losses and the depression.
An alternative explanation is this of demoralization. Apathy is a
characteristic of demoralization but is quite different from de-
pression although those two syndromes have similar presenta-
tion. Demoralization has been defined as a state in which the
individual feels helpless, hopeless, impotent, and isolated (de
Figueiredo & Frank, 1982). Demoralization is experienced as
existential despair, hopelessness, helplessness, and loss of
meaning and purpose in life (Clarke & Kissane, 2002). The
core symptom of demoralization is the difficulty to cope, the
sense of being trapped, not knowing what to do, and coupled
with social isolation the individual have the feeling of alien-
ation (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Demoralization has not yet
gained its merit in psychiatric nomenclature and thus very few
studies have investigated it in natural disasters although (Parson,
1990) have found symptoms of demoralization in Vietnam
veterans and other individuals who have experienced a very
stressful event, and he named it as Post-Traumatic Demoraliza-
tion Syndrome.
Nevertheless the last finding was unexpected and not in the
aims of this study and possible need further investigation and
replication with new studies in natural disasters mental health
In conclusion, the work presented here found that victims of
the wildfires in Greece have lost their faith in important social
values which bring a society together, like dialogue and com-
munication with other people, social rules, mutual support,
modesty, compliance with law, devotion, safety, and trust. In
addition this study suggests that an already low level of trust in
institutions, a low social capital and a weak social cohesion
perhaps pre-existed the disaster and that just the disaster has
made all of them worse. Thus to quote Jim Wallis “some times
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