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Social Vulnerability in a Multi-Hazard Context: A Systematic Review

The interacting effects of multiple hazards pose a substantial challenge to poverty reduction and national development. Yet, social vulnerability to multiple hazards is a relatively understudied, though growing concern. The impacts of climate hazards in particular, leave increasingly large populations becoming more exposed and susceptible to the devastating effects of repeat, chronic and sequential natural hazards. Multi-hazard research has focused on the physical aspects of natural hazards, giving less attention to the social facets of human-hazard interaction. Further, there is no single conceptualization of 'multi-hazard'. This systematic review utilizes correlations and hierarchical clustering to determine how social vulnerability is assessed in the context of the three most common classifications of 'multi-hazard': aggregate, cascading and compound. Results reveal these classifications of 'multi-hazard' each focus on different aspects of social vulnerability. Studies in the aggregate classification of multi-hazard were more likely to represent social vulnerability as an outcome of hazard events, while those in the cascading and compound classifications more often addressed social vulnerability as a preexisting condition. Further, knowledge of social vulnerability to multi-hazards comes mainly from the aggregate classification and the mitigation phase of the disaster cycle. The difference in perspectives of social vulnerability covered, and limited context in which multi-hazard studies of social vulnerability have been applied, mean a full understanding of social vulnerability remains elusive. We argue that research should focus on the cascading and compound classifications of multi-hazards, which are more suited to interrogating how human-(multi)hazard interactions shape social vulnerability.