Vulnerable persons in society: An insider's perspective

Wilma Numans*, Tine Van Regenmortel, Rene Schalk, Juliette Boog

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
100 Downloads (Pure)



Self-reliance and social participation are strongly promoted by social policy. Both concepts are linked to the concept of vulnerability, for people who do not meet these standards are labelled "vulnerable people". In this paper, the insider's perspective takes central stage by seeking to explore what it means to be labelled a "vulnerable person", and through this to further our insight into the meaning of the concept of vulnerability.


Thirty-three in-depth interviews were conducted with 16 allegedly vulnerable people. The data were subjected to thematic content analysis.


Our analysis revealed three main dimensions and eight sub-dimensions of perceived vulnerability, outlining an insider's concept of vulnerability. This concept includes manifestations of vulnerability, feelings coexisting with vulnerability, and the image of vulnerable people.


The perception of vulnerability changes when interacting with others in society, especially with social policy implementers. In this interaction, the perceived vulnerability increases and becomes societal vulnerability. It concerns a dependency situation in which one's strength and self-determination are not recognized, and the help needed is not provided. By acknowledging the insider's perspective, social policy can fulfil a more empowering role towards "vulnerable people" and contribute to people's well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1863598
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Public Policy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Concept
  • Vulnerable Populations/psychology


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