A report on the Economic Strength of Rural Towns in Ireland has found that there is a wide variation in how they have been affected by the economic crisis.
The report by Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority, also found there is a significant difference between towns within a particular region.
It found that the midlands, southeast and west have the highest concentration of the weakest towns and the southwest and west have the highest concentration of the strongest towns.
Offaly and Carlow were the counties with the lowest average index.
Sligo and Cork were the counties with the highest average index.
The report also found that the weakest towns have a larger proportion of unoccupied housing than average.
Commenting on the index, Teagasc Head of Rural Economy and Development Prof Cathal O'Donoghue said these rural towns have had a lower focus in national development strategies over the past decade and a half.
Teagasc Senior Research Officer Dr David Meredith said the solutions to the challenges that these towns face will have to be tailored to their specific needs and that a one-size-fits-all strategy would not work.
The report was written to support the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas, which is due to be launched next Monday.