Who is vulnerable?

Climate impacts and extreme weather events can affect anyone, but some people have the potential to be more affected than others. How badly a person or group will be affected will depend not just on their exposure to the event, but on their social vulnerability – that is, how well they are able to cope with and respond to events like floods and heatwaves. People and communities experiencing multiple causes of vulnerability are the most extremely socially vulnerable.

The main drivers of social vulnerability relate to

  • Personal features of the individual, such as age and health, which affect their sensitivity to climate impacts;
  • Environmental characteristics, such as the availability of green space, quality of housing stock or elevation of buildings, which can increase or offset exposure to flooding or heat;
  • Social and institutional context, such as levels of inequality and income, the strength of social networks, the cohesion of neighbourhoods and the day-to-day practices of institutions, such as care regimes in nursing homes, which affect people’s ability to adapt.

More details about social vulnerability are provided in the Overview box below. More details about each vulnerable social group are given in the other boxes below.

Image of woman in flooded home © Environment Agency