The impacts of flooding are expected to rise due to population increases, economic growth and climate change. Hence, understanding the physical and spatiotemporal characteristics of risk drivers (hazard, exposure and vulnerability) is required to develop effective flood mitigation measures. Here, the long-term trend in flood vulnerability was analysed globally, calculated from the ratio of the reported flood loss or damage to the modelled flood exposure using a global river and inundation model. A previous study showed decreasing global flood vulnerability over a shorter period using different disaster data. The long-term analysis demonstrated for the first time that flood vulnerability to economic losses in upper-middle, lower-middle and low-income countries shows an inverted U-shape, as a result of the balance between economic growth and various historical socioeconomic efforts to reduce damage, leading to non-significant upward or downward trends. We also show that the flood-exposed population is affected by historical changes in population distribution, with changes in flood vulnerability of up to 48.9%. Both increasing and decreasing trends in flood vulnerability were observed in different countries, implying that population growth scenarios considering spatial distribution changes could affect flood risk projections.
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