Gauging the societal impacts of natural disasters using a capability approach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a widely acknowledged need for a single composite index that provides a comprehensive picture of the societal impact of disasters. A composite index combines and logically organizes important information policy-makers need to allocate resources for the recovery from natural disasters; it can also inform hazard mitigation strategies. This paper develops a Disaster Impact Index (DII) to gauge the societal impact of disasters on the basis of the changes in individuals' capabilities. The DII can be interpreted as the disaster impact per capita. Capabilities are dimensions of individual well-being and refer to the genuine opportunities individuals have to achieve valuable states and activities (such as being adequately nourished or being mobile). After discussing the steps required to construct the DII, this article computes and compares the DIIs for two earthquakes of similar magnitude in two societies at different levels of development and of two disasters (earthquake and wind storm) in the same society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-636
Number of pages18
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Capability approach
  • Individual well-being
  • Natural disasters
  • Recovery
  • Social impact

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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