Rural poverty & social isolation
: Measuring the impact of a national initiative in Northern Ireland using binary logistic regression

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Rural Northern Ireland (NI) is home to an increasingly ageing and vulnerable population. Chiefly, the sternest challenges facing the most vulnerable include proximity to services (health, educational and recreational centers), transport and fuel poverty. NI’s response is not limited to EU funded programmes. Indeed, the Maximizing Access in Rural Areas (MARA) initiative (2012-2014), a 100% nationally funded rural development programme, aimed to tackle such deprivations in rural NI through home heating improvements, access to community services (local services), occupational therapy (OT), smart passes and access to Community Rural Transport Partnerships (CRTPs) etc. Using binary logistic regression, this study measured the impact of MARA on the health and social isolation of rural NI, whilst also quantifying the relationship between both. Particular focus was placed among low-income individuals, the disabled elderly, western NI and the NI/ROI border areas.

Through empirical quantitative research methods, this study finds that MARA, through its smart approach (marrying local knowledge with government objectives) has countered levels of deprivation in the most deprived areas within rural NI, aided the most vulnerable and, overall, effectively tackled poverty and reduced levels of social isolation. This research has found that improvements in individual health are a product of reduced levels of social isolation – better health is a concomitant of reduced social isolation – both dovetail to create what is truly rural poverty, and rural development is only effective when it tackles both.
Date of AwardJul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsDepartment of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
SupervisorAlberto Longo (Supervisor) & Erin Sherry (Supervisor)


  • Rural poverty
  • social isolation
  • rural development
  • national policy
  • logisitc regression
  • panel models

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