Why are some countries more vulnerable to the impacts of natural hazards?

Edexcel iGCSE > Hazardous Environments > Why are some countries more vulnerable to the impacts of natural hazards?

Why do people live in areas at risk of tectonic hazards?

Introduction to Vulnerability

In the study of geography, particularly when addressing natural hazards, it’s crucial to understand the concept of “vulnerability”. Vulnerability isn’t just about the physical impacts of a natural event; it encompasses the resilience and preparedness of people and properties in the affected areas. This article delves into the various factors that can heighten a country’s vulnerability to natural disasters, thereby increasing the risks associated with such events.

Physical Factors Influencing Vulnerability to Hazards

Certain geographical features increase the likelihood of natural hazards. For instance, countries located along tectonic plate boundaries may frequently experience earthquakes and volcanic activity. Similarly, nations in tropical regions face higher incidences of hurricanes. The physical environment, like steep slopes and coastal lowlands, can also increase the effects of natural hazards due to their susceptibility to landslides and flooding.

Economic Factors Influencing Vulnerability to Hazards

The economic status of a country significantly influences its ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. Developed countries often have more durable infrastructure and better housing quality, largely due to higher levels of wealth and development. This disparity is evident in the comparison between high-income countries (HICs) and low-income countries (LICs), where HICs can enforce stringent building codes and have broader access to advanced technology and insurance. For example, Japan’s rigorous enforcement of building regulations and its use of ICT to warn its citizens about imminent dangers like tsunamis and earthquakes dramatically reduce its vulnerability.

Social Factors Influencing Vulnerability to Hazards

Social dynamics also play a critical role in determining a country’s vulnerability. Education levels, for example, can dictate the quality of housing a population can afford, thus influencing their safety during natural disasters. Gender roles, too, can affect vulnerability; women, often caregivers, may face added responsibilities during disasters, which can impede their ability to evacuate or seek assistance. High population density can strain the effectiveness of emergency services, particularly in rapidly growing urban areas where new residents might be unaware of local hazards.

Disparities in Disaster Risk

The Global Risk Report 2021 highlights how low economic capacity and income correlate with high vulnerability. Countries like Chad, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are examples of nations with limited resources to cope with disasters, placing them at a heightened risk. In contrast, countries such as Japan and the Netherlands, though similarly exposed to natural hazards, have significantly lower vulnerability due to their robust disaster preparedness and management systems.


  • What is vulnerability to natural hazards?

    Vulnerability refers to the susceptibility of a community to the impacts of natural hazards, influenced by their ability to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the damage.

  • Physical factors affecting natural hazard vulnerability

    • Geographic location, such as proximity to fault lines, volcanoes, and tropical storm regions.
    • Physical environment characteristics like steep slopes and coastal lowlands that increase susceptibility to landslides and flooding.
  • Economic factors affecting natural hazard vulnerability

    • Levels of wealth and development influencing the quality and durability of infrastructure and housing.
    • Enforcement of building codes, with countries like Japan showcasing strict adherence.
    • Access to technology for early warning systems.
    • Availability of insurance to make buildings hazard-resistant, often unaffordable in low-income countries.
  • Social factors affecting natural hazard vulnerability

    • Education levels affecting housing quality and disaster preparedness.
    • Gender roles impacting responsibilities and mobility during disasters.
    • Population density stressing emergency services, especially in rapidly growing urban areas.
    • Mobility and vulnerability of specific groups, such as the elderly and disabled.
  • Global disparities in natural hazards risk

    • Lower economic capacity and income correlate with higher vulnerability and disaster risk.
    • Examples of countries with high vulnerability include Chad, Central African Republic, and DR Congo.
    • Contrasts like Japan and the Netherlands show low vulnerability due to effective disaster management systems.


Coming soon


Coming soon

Edexcel iGCSE Menu

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This