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PhD Study: Measuring Community Resilience at a Population Level

This research is led by Christine Camacho as part of her PhD Fellowship. For more information about Christine, please check our PhD Fellowships page.



What are we trying to do?

The definition of community resilience is how a community uses the resources available to it to respond to, and recover from, adverse events. This PhD study is looking at how community resilience is measured.



Why is this important?

Currently, there is no agreed method of measuring community resilience in England. However, it’s important to develop this because a standardised method of measuring community resilience would allow fair funding decisions to be made, making sure that no communities are disadvantaged by unequal levels of funding.  


One of the main aims of the UK Government’s Levelling Up strategy is to reduce place-based inequalities, so it’s important to calculate whether those aims are being met.  



How are we doing it?

This PhD study began with a review of the existing literature around measuring community resilience. A framework called the Baseline Resilience Indicators for Communities (BRIC) was identified, which was the most well-used internationally, with 32 studies identified in total. But none of these studies had measured community resilience in the UK.


Following on from this literature review, we are using a number of quantitative methods to explore and understand how to measure community residence in England, including:


  • The use of an economic resilience index (for England) to test whether the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund (CRF) had been allocated according to need.
  • The social patterning and socio-economic determinants of Deaths in Despair (in England) – Deaths in Despair is a collective term for deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide




The UK Government launched a Community Renewal Fund (CRF) in 2021. The fund is part of the UK Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda to address place-based inequalities. The CRF, which was a cornerstone of the government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, was established to address regional inequalities through investment in place-based initiatives.


However, the findings of our work suggest that the current method for CRF allocation runs the risk of widening existing inequalities rather than ‘levelling up’.


Using an economic resilience index for England to test whether the fund had been allocated according to need, we found:

  • Nationally, there was no significant correlation between regional economic resilience and funding allocations.
  • All regions in the North of England received less than their expected share of the flagship ‘levelling up’ fund.
  • The least resilient region in England – the North East – received £13.4 million less.
  • By contrast, the South West was awarded £9.9 million more than their expected share.


The full paper has been published in Regional Studies, Regional Science and is available below.


Regarding our analysis around Deaths of Despair, which is the first study to explore geographical patterning and contributing causes of these kinds of deaths in England, we found that people living in the North of England and in coastal areas are more likely to die from Deaths of Despair.


The analysis shows that between 2019 and 2021, 46,200 people lost their lives due to Deaths of Despair in England – the equivalent of 42 people every day. However, in the North East of England, more than twice as many people lost their lives due to Deaths of Despair compared to London.


We also found that:

  • On average, 14.8 per 100,000 more people die from Deaths of Despair in the North compared to the rest of England.
  • Even after accounting for multiple social and economic factors, living in the North of England was associated with a 5.8 per 100,000 increase in Deaths of Despair rate.
  • More than twice as many people died from Deaths of Despair in the North East of England than they did in London (54.7 per 100,000 and 25.1 per 100,000 respectively).
  • The highest rate of Deaths of Despair in England (at local authority level) is in Blackpool – almost 2.5 times the national average.
  • Three areas in England, all in the North, experienced more than double the average Deaths of Despair – Blackpool (83.8 in 100,000 deaths), Middlesbrough (71.6 per 100,000 deaths) and Hartlepool (70.5 per 100,000 deaths).
  • Alcohol-specific deaths made up almost half of Deaths of Despair in England, accounting for 44.1% of all such deaths.
  • Deaths of Despair accounted for 2.9% of all deaths in England.
  • Deaths of Despair were highest among people aged 45-54 (55 per 100,000).
  • Deaths of Despair accounted for 2 in 5 deaths in people aged 25-29 (41.1% of all deaths).
  • Coastal local authorities had a significantly higher average Deaths of Despair rate than inland local authorities (41.6 per 100,000 compared to 31.5 per 100,000).


The full paper has been published in Social Science and Medicine and is available below.



Downloadable resources




More information



Christine Camacho

PhD Fellow & Public Health Consultant  

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