Environmental vulnerability and resilience: social differentiation in short‐ and long‐term flood impacts

Donald Houston, Alan Werritty, Tom Ball, Andrew Black

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This paper reports household questionnaire survey results on vulnerability and resilience to flooding from one of the largest and most representative samples (n=593) of households up to 12 years after they were flooded, and is one of the first to provide detailed analysis of social differentiation in long‐term flood impacts. A novel finding is that social differentiation in flood impacts is relatively small soon after a flood, but widens over time, with socially‐disadvantaged groups displaying less recovery. The patterns of social differentiation in vulnerability and resilience to flooding differ markedly according to the type and timescale of the impact, with some normally socially advantaged groups (e.g. professionals and homeowners) being most vulnerable to short‐term impacts. Consistent with some existing studies, we found that older residents (age 70+) have greater resilience to flood impacts, although our sample may not capture the frailest individuals. As in previous research, low income is linked to lower resilience, particularly in the long term. We find that prior experience of flooding, despite enhancing preparedness, overall erodes rather than enhances resilience to flooding. Flood warnings are effective at reducing vulnerability to short‐term impacts. Underlying influences on resilience to natural disasters are complex and may only be revealed by multivariate analysis and not always be evident in simple observed patterns. The paper concludes that vulnerability and resilience to flooding are sensitive to financial resources, institutional support (chiefly from a landlord) and capacity to deal with disruption (chiefly time availability, which is low among professionals and high among retired people). An implication of these findings is that existing indices of flood vulnerability that use multiple measures of social deprivation should be used with caution, as not all conventional aspects of social deprivation are necessarily associated with greater vulnerability to flood impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)0
Number of pages18
JournalTransactions of The Institute of British Geographers
Early online date26 Aug 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 26 Aug 2020


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