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Depending on the specialist area, risk has a different content of terms ; in general, this is understood to mean the possibility of future events that harbor negative effects such as the risk of loss . Security is a complementary term .


The origin of the word is not fully clarified. Today's word risk is a loan word (from Italian rischio ) that has been adopted in many languages ​​( English risk , French risque , Dutch risico , Portuguese risco , Spanish riesgo ). It probably comes from the old Italian word "risco", which in earlier Italian maritime shipping meant something like "cliff", ie a danger for shipping traffic emanating from shallows. In this form it appeared in Italian commercial letters of the 12th / 13th centuries. Century as sailing around a cliff ( Latin risicare ). In Greece, too, people spoke of the cliff ( ancient Greek ῥίζα rhiza , also “root”). Other sources attribute risk to Arabic origins ( Arabic رزق, DMG rizq , "livelihood that depends on God and fate"), which includes not only negative expectations of the risk of loss, but also positive aspects of a happy coincidence or a coincidental gift. In 1477 it reached the German-speaking area as "arreschg" and in 1479 it changed to "Aryan". In Upper Swabia, "uff our Rysigo" appeared for the first time, which in 1518 solidified as "Risigo".

While major German dictionaries ( Duden , Wahrig ) trace the word back to the ancient Greek ῥίζα ( rhiza "root, cliff") via the vulgar Latin, unoccupied * risicare * resecare ("risk running, dare") , the etymological dictionary names the German language (2000) only uses the postulated vulgar Latin * resecum ("rock cliff" ) as an etymological background , the verbal noun to resecare ("cut off") the "rock tower cut off from the mainland, which is a danger to merchant ships". The much older Romance Etymological Dictionary (1935) also sees the development of the word in the Greek ῥιζικόν ( rhizikon “cliff”) and the associated Latin derivative resecare as justified.

Kluge (1999), on the other hand, discusses a pre-Romanesque form riscare , which, as a derivation from the Latin rixari ("argue, resist"), would describe the incalculable consequences of resistance in combat. The foreign words Duden provides another source . There the term is derived from the Arabic rizq .

Definition of terms

Danger, exposure, risk, risk

A tiger in a cage is a danger, but not a risk.

The terms danger, risk and risk are precisely defined in technical terms . In common parlance, this is often ignored, which means that the terms are often used synonymously . This sometimes leads to misunderstandings. There is danger when a situation can intrinsically have a harmful effect. Dangers are, for example, a bump in the road, an unattended machine, a fire, a terrorist attack. The second factor to be considered is exposure , i.e. how much a viewed person or object is exposed to danger: A terrorist attack in Munich is comparatively harmless for a person in Hamburg regardless of their emotional state. A risk exists only when a hazard and exposure coexist. Since not all influencing factors are known or they depend on chance , the risk is associated with a risk . In technical terms, a risk is understood to mean "taking a risk or entering into a risky situation". That is why the word risk is used as a partial synonym for risk. When making a decision with uncertain consequences, one can speak of taking a risk or even a risk. However, the concept of risk is not identical to the concept of risk. One can "risk" an accident through grossly negligent traffic behavior, but not "dare" it. The clearly defined terms are not interchangeable.

The risk expresses the combination of probability and danger that can arise for a person or object being viewed. A tiger can be seen as a danger. As long as the tiger is in its locked cage, however, the likelihood of harm is low (no exposure) and there is little risk. Nevertheless, the danger persists, because it is only linked to the existence of the tiger and its intrinsic properties.


Risk is generally viewed as the combination of the probability of occurrence of an adverse event and the severity of damage if the event should occur. An often common simplification is to describe the product of the probability of occurrence and the severity of damage as a risk. This is appropriate if this product is well defined and if the event occurs or can occur so often that the transition to the expected value described by this product makes sense. In this case, the risk is assessed in the unit of the target variable.

Due to the limited knowledge about the probability of occurrence and the extent of damage, it has to be distinguished from a number of terms.

In contrast to the term risk, the term venture tends to have an ethical component and is therefore preferred in the humanities ( theology , philosophy , psychology , pedagogy , sports science, etc.) (risk friendship, risk marriage, risk sport ). In contrast to the risk, the risk is always associated with an action: A distinction is made between the facts of an objective dangerous situation , i.e. H. a risk, and the fact whether someone gets involved in this situation, differentiated. According to this, risk is always part of a venture. There is no such thing as a venture without risks. However, risks are not necessarily associated with a risk. Rather, this also requires a personal decision to act.

In legal parlance, the risk is differentiated from the danger . Here, danger describes a situation in which, given the unimpeded, non-influenceable course of events, a condition or behavior leads to expected damage with sufficient probability. The danger represents a greater risk. Furthermore, the risk is differentiated from the residual risk, which for the time being can be described as a weaker risk.

To differentiate between the terms danger, risk and residual risk , the “the the more” formula was developed. It states that in the event of a larger threatened scope of damage as a result of synergy effects, the demands on the probability of occurrence of the event are lower, in order to still speak of a danger. However, this delimitation becomes difficult if it seems impossible to make statements about the amount of damage or the probability of occurrence.

In this case, the boundaries between danger and risk and risk and residual risk become blurred. It is conceivable here that the damage potential of a named residual risk can be many times higher than that of a clearly defined risk. Example: Up until September 11, 2001, no one could have imagined that terrorists would collapse the World Trade Center in New York with airplanes . Until then, this event was considered to be very unlikely and therefore a residual risk. However, after 9/11, an aerial terrorist attack poses a threat.

In contrast to events under uncertainty and ignorance , the occurrence of a risk can be calculated. In the case of uncertainty, the possible effects are known, but no information is available on the probability of occurrence. In the case of ignorance, the effects of the investigated alternative courses of action are not or not fully known. In both cases, the event - more so than with the risk - is incalculable. However, it is also conceivable that neither the amount of damage nor the probability of an event occurring are known.


According to all of this, risk is the risk of loss that can result from the unforeseen occurrence of future events. From an economic point of view, the risk of loss is unexpected increased expenditure or increased costs , reduced earnings or reduced revenues . The risk of loss or economic disadvantages relate to the occurrence of future events, of which it is both uncertain whether they will occur at all and with what intensity they will occur.

Sometimes this risk concept - which is only connoted with the risk of loss - is also expanded to include opportunities for profit , which is then a broad risk concept. The Chinese symbol for risk / crisis ( Chinese  危机 , Pinyin wēijī, wéi jī ) reflects this ambivalence , because the first character means “danger”, the second “chance”. The expanded concept of risk is defined as “no risk without opportunity, but also no opportunity without risk”. Risks in which the risk of loss corresponds to an equally high chance of profit are called speculative risks ; if the chance of winning is completely absent, the risks are pure . Insurance companies therefore take on pure risks if damage occurs; if there is no damage, there is no chance of winning because the condition planned in advance has been preserved.

All people are exposed to a multitude of risks in social interaction , but also in the effects of the environment and nature ( environmental conditions ), which they cannot completely avoid even with the greatest efforts of their own and those of others. Because every action is inseparable from the emergence of risks. Every person is therefore a potential risk bearer who has the opportunity to recognize and bear emerging risks through risk perception or to pursue risk avoidance , risk reduction , risk diversification , risk transfer or risk prevention in the context of risk management . Whether and to what extent he does this depends on his risk attitude.

Risk attitude

How he deals with risks depends on the risk attitude of a (potential) risk taker. The risk taker will take or keep the highest risk with the greatest possible chance of profit, the opposite risk averse will prefer the lowest risk with the lowest possible loss. In between lies risk neutrality , where neither safe nor unsafe alternatives are preferred, but only the mathematical expected value plays a role.

Types of risk

Depending on the context in which risks arise, certain types of risk can be distinguished from one another:

A large part of these types of risk can be insured .

Concept of risk in various specialist disciplines

Decision theory

Decision theory differentiates the behavior of a decision maker in the face of a risky situation.

  • Risk aversion or risk aversion describes the ability of a decision-maker to prefer the alternative with the lowest risk with regard to the result - and thus also the lowest possible loss - when choosing between several alternatives with the same expected value (= probability of occurrence x amount of benefit). Risk-averse decision-makers therefore prefer a profit that is as secure as possible, even if it is small.
  • Risk neutrality means that a decision maker is indifferent to the risk, that is, makes his decision solely on the basis of the expected value and does not include any risk that may arise in his decision.
  • Risk affinity , risk sympathy or risk appetite describes the quality of a decision-maker when choosing between several alternatives with the same expected value , preferring the alternative with the highest risk in terms of the result - and thus also the highest possible profit. Decision-makers who are willing to take risks therefore prefer the highest possible profit, even if it is uncertain.

It divides the decisions according to whether they are to be classified as a decision under risk , decision under uncertainty , decision under uncertainty or decision under security .


Geographic risk research analyzes the effects of anticipated hazards at the interface between society and the environment. The research pursues two different objectives: Part of geographic risk research is about determining objective risk factors in the interaction between humans and the environment. Another part examines, based on the constructivist social sciences, which social effects are associated with the ascription of “risk”. Specific features of geographic risk research are the focus on spatialization of risks and the high interdisciplinary and integral claim as a mediator between different risk concepts.


In medicine , one speaks of risk indicators and risk patients when there are certain pre-existing illnesses or additional illnesses that make surgery or other medical treatments difficult or even forbidden because they pose an increased risk and accordingly require a particularly careful anamnesis and balanced treatment. Risk factors include: B. cardiovascular diseases with a previous infarction or heart failure, metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus or a weak immune system and infectious diseases such as hepatitis or AIDS. In addition to heart patients, tumor sufferers and very old people, special risk patients also include patients with Marcumar medication, allergy sufferers or asthmatics. In anesthesia , the "cardiac risk patients" are particularly subject to special attention. In gynecology , one speaks of a high-risk pregnancy or a high-risk birth when there is an increased risk to the mother and / or child due to certain factors.

An evaluation of numerous studies showed that five to ten percent adverse events, two to four percent damage, one percent treatment errors and 0.1 percent deaths due to errors can be expected in the hospital sector. With 17 million hospital patients annually, this equates to 850,000 to 1.7 million adverse events, 340,000 harms (avoidable adverse events), 170,000 malpractice errors (lack of care) and 17,000 deaths due to avoidable adverse events. The entire outpatient area is not included.

Engineering and environmental sciences

Environmental scientists, planners and safety engineers use risk to describe the combination of frequency or probability of occurrence and severity or extent of damage . This definition is e.g. B. used in EN ISO 12100: 2010. Simplification by means of a product is also partly common here and is also used by the Federal Government's Scientific Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change (WBGU, see Annual Report, 1998). In the empirical application of the concept z. T. prognosis and quantification problems. Examples of solving these problems can be found primarily in the methodical procedures for estimating flood risks and the expected flood damage values.

The frequency of occurrence describes the frequency with which an event occurs within a certain time interval. So z. B. 0.01 events per year that on average a damaging event has been observed once every 100 years. Such assessments are dependent on the available statistical data and past experience. They are only halfway reliable if there is a sufficiently large number of observations ( law of large numbers ). The conclusion that an event with the observed frequency of occurrence would "only occur every 100 years" in the future is a fallacy in the case of random events.

The unit of the extent of damage depends on the respective subject. It can be values ​​that can be expressed in monetary terms (€), but it can also be about feared deaths, potentially seriously affected or the total loss of an aircraft. Of course, not every extent of damage can be expressed in monetary terms; in the end, due to the lack of uniform definitions for "damage", the assessment is often subjective.

In occupational safety , the risk assessment is based on limit values ​​(e.g. from accident prevention regulations) and standardized procedures (e.g. from standards), such as This can be used, for example, when assessing safety systems (e.g. emergency stop as hardware or software) ( risk graph ) and, where this is not possible, the risk matrix (according to Nohl) is used for objectification (risk assessment) .

In the area of civil protection , more precisely the fire department being the fire protection requirements planning with the topics safety objective and auxiliary period relevant. In addition to the above factors, the measures for risk management (number of crews, equipment) and risk reduction (early evaluation of the risks, political consensus on the protection goal or official specification of the degree of goal achievement) are considered.

In the area of environmental protection "risk" is (Engl. Risk ) consistently distinguished from "hazard" (or "hazard", Eng. Hazard ). If the terms are mixed up, discussions about environmental hazards are difficult because misunderstandings can constantly arise. The German state authority, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment , BfR, launched a research project on the subject of chemicals in 2006–2007 in order to improve risk communication in the German-speaking area. Using a previous definition at the BfR, the researchers stipulated:

“The term“ hazard ”describes ... the potential inherent in the substance (chemical) to cause a harmful effect on the target organism. Dose-effect relationships form the basis for this. The term “risk” comprises the product of the extent and probability of occurrence of damage. Exposure data form the basis for determining the probability of occurrence. "

- BfR, Berlin, communication of risk and hazard potential from the perspective of various stakeholders :

This means that there is always a timeline for "risk" because this is the only way to calculate the probability. It is always based on a statistical calculation, the risk quotient . In the case of "endangerment", however, a one-off event is theoretically sufficient ; z. B. A person can be killed by a single intake of an enormous amount of alcohol, the aforementioned "dose", the aforementioned "effect".

Math and statistics

The sub-area of ​​mathematics that specializes in chance, stochastics , deals with risks and their calculation. Probability theory describes the mathematical foundations of chance and thus of risks. The Mathematical Statistics , a branch of stochastics, tempted by the analysis of data on documented events the likes of probability, loss and expected values to quantify. The risk theory deals with the risks that result from complex combinations of operations.


The teaching makes a clear distinction between the terms "risk" and "risk": The risk is on the perspective of pedagogy merely a predictable within certain limits (risk factors) risk-prone starting position. When taking a risk, there is also a decision to act that should be based on ethical principles and conscientious weighing of the negative and positive consequences. The daring has to get involved personally and holistically in the risky task. In contrast to the residual risk, there is no residual risk. According to the theory of the security instinct of the risk researcher Felix von Cube and the risk formula of the experimental psychologist Siegbert A. Warwitz , which describes the regularity of human development, people have to expose themselves to uncertainties and risks in order to trigger the necessary impulses to be able to mature their personality through appropriate learning processes to reach a more demanding security level.

Scientific pedagogy and practical education deal with conveying the reflective assessment of risks in the most diverse areas of life and learning how to deal responsibly with these risks, the "skillful" risk. The aim is to acquire risk-taking and risk-taking skills, as is specifically expressed in moral courage or the willingness to face high- risk requirements such as exams or applications. The relevant pedagogical discipline that works didactically and methodically towards this goal is risk education . In certain elite schools, such as the outward bound schools founded by the reform pedagogue and politician Kurt Hahn all over the world , the confrontation with risk is given high priority.

According to Warwitz, the outdated, risk-averse “preservation pedagogy”, as it is still reflected in the motto “Knife, fork, scissors, light are not for small children”, has to be considered obsolete and must be replaced by a “proven pedagogy”: while The old preservation pedagogy concentrated on keeping all kinds of risks away from the pupils as far as possible, i.e. followed a protective reflex in the form of danger avoidance, the preservation pedagogy consciously and specifically confronts dangers and risks and teaches the sensible and safe handling of them. According to this, risk competence is not achieved by ignoring or avoiding sources of danger and risky situations, but rather through a reflective and practical approach to relevant challenges. As a prime example, he cites the statistically verifiable fact that the "spared" children who are regularly chauffeured through the traffic in the parents' taxi and thus kept under age develop into typical accident children, while the children who are practiced and familiar with traffic on a daily basis have the necessary traffic skills and Achieve safety in dealing with traffic.

According to Hermann Röhrs, dealing with risks is not only educationally valuable, but also highly attractive for children and young people. The brave is admired and risks provoke tests of courage . They guarantee tension and release emotions, motivations and physical and mental energy reserves. The resulting adventure and experience character is used by education for risk confrontation and risk education.



The philosophy deals with the sense orientation of life. When it comes to “risk”, she is concerned with the “why” of turning to risky situations, the sense of the car and ethical considerations. In this context, the various ways of using the term “risk” in the sciences and areas of life are analyzed and ethically justified ways of dealing with risk are sought: the risk sometimes describes a qualitatively determined possibility, sometimes a usually quantified probability that such a possibility becomes real, and sometimes a usually quantitative, probability-weighted assessment of such a possibility. In the ethics of risk, a distinction is made between purposeful and moral aspects. Utilitarian and deontological moral philosophies sometimes come to different results, since the latter does not allow the offsetting of damage caused by certain people with other people's profits. The fact that the damage or gain is only likely to occur does not change this fundamental difference.

Ethics of risk

The Christian existential philosopher Peter Wust (1884-1940) describes in his main work "Uncertainty and Risk" the fateful integration of human existence into a risk-determined existence with an uncertain course. In his view, it is realized in the three dimensions of the vital, the spiritual and the religious form of life. Life is to be understood as a challenge to act independently in risk, to accept and to shape it again and again. Wust characterizes people as a "seeker being" who is always on the move and can ultimately only achieve the fulfillment of his longing for security and security through the bond of a "religio" and the trusting "turning to his creator". According to von Wust's theory, the risky existence of human beings is fulfilled in a gradual build-up of values ​​from the development of the vital level as the basis of life through the creation of a spiritual superstructure to the ultimately life-fulfilling religiously determined way of existence, which is to be achieved through the risk.

The venture researcher Siegbert A. Warwitz sees the essence of the human being in a different pictorial conception and ideal classification determined principally by the openness of his dispositions and possibilities: This gives him the chance, unique in the history of evolution, but also the responsibility for his development on a large scale to design yourself according to your own ideas. At the same time, however, he is also subject to the risk of failing because (in the Christian understanding) he does not perceive the “creation mandate” or (profanely formulated) does not do justice to the “determination of his being”. According to this notion, man is designed and called upon to develop as optimally as possible what nature has only given him rudimentarily through permanent work on himself "in growing rings of life" and to repeatedly break through apparent limitations. Dealing with the risk, the dare, is connected with an ethical component. This pursues the goal of a personality-appropriate, value-based existential finding of meaning, which naturally can differ considerably from that of other people.

According to the English mathematician and philosopher John G. Bennett (1897–1974), it is the possibility of failure that makes things “real”. So real freedom for Bennett only in non- deterministic life possible their potential output therefore is really open. These cases, whose special character he describes with the presence of "hazard" (English for endangerment, danger, moment of danger, risk, risk, chance), enable the individual to make an actual free will because of this indeterminate moment - thus contain a real uncertainty . For him, “hazard” is the condition for freedom. In his main work, The Dramatic Universe , Bennett claims that such situations are not limited to human perception, but that moments of hazard are part of the fundamental condition of the universe on a physical level (which also opens up interesting cross-references to knowledge of modern quantum physics ). There is no perfect state that would be free from this interplay of uncertainty and will (or natural laws), since hazard represents a "basic constant" of reality. Another aspect, which is also interesting from the point of view of religious studies , arises from the fact that Bennett sees not only man and nature as subject to this uncertainty, but also every possible idea of ​​a " Creator ". The contradiction inherent in the system between human freedom and an “omnipotence of God” dissolves from his postulate that even God is not freed from the “natural law” of hazard or uncertainty in his work . Based on the conviction that God (whatever religious beliefs) cannot be omnipotent , Bennett attaches special importance to man's co-responsibility in creation.


In psychology, risk perception deals with the question of how risks are perceived subjectively. If the sensory data to be perceived consist exclusively of risks, risk takers often tend to overestimate relatively insignificant risks and underestimate or even negate high risks. It can also be observed that the same risk is assessed differently by several risk takers. This is due to the subjective assessment of the probability of occurrence and possible damaging event by laypeople, which systematically deviates from objective risk analyzes and risk assessments by specialists . The error research focuses on the exploration of ways of thinking, planning and action errors that can cause risks or increase, and issues of risk creation by safely controlled believed routine . The social-psychological theory of protection motivation ( English Protection Motivation Theory ) deals specifically with acting under risk .


The risk society has been a hot topic in the social sciences since the 1980s . Ulrich Beck , whose book of the same name describes the term as future-oriented for a “different modernity ”, became very popular. His core thesis was that modern society is characterized by self-produced risks - and not by progress , as in industrial society .

In systems theory sociology , the term “risk” is used when a decision is observed under the distinction between knowledge and ignorance. The sociological concept of risk is therefore always linked to decisions and their expected consequences of various actors .

The system theory of Niklas Luhmann distinguishes between "risk" and " danger ". The popular distinction between risk and security falls short, as every decision involves risks. Safety should be understood as a general goal, but what matters is how someone faces a risk themselves. If you have to influence the possible negative consequences of a decision yourself, you shoulder a risk that you usually have to answer for yourself. However, if one is affected by effects from the environment (in the example from the weather), this is categorized as "danger" according to Luhmann.

Luhmann's example of the umbrella risk is famous:

If there are umbrellas, you can no longer live risk-free:
the risk of getting wet from rain becomes the risk that you take if you don't take the umbrella with you.
But if you take it with you, you run the risk of leaving it somewhere.

The risk definition by the communication scientists Silje Kristiansen and Heinz Bonfadelli (University of Zurich, Switzerland) integrates further risk components into the risk definition. Their definition is based on the definitions of Aven / Renn, Beck, Bonfadelli, or Dahinden / Schanne. The definition is: "Risk is the decision to enjoy a benefit while accepting future damage with a more or less easily determinable probability of occurrence and an uncertain extent ". The author Kristiansen points out that the extent of certain risks can be assessed; the extent can also be more or less easily determined, as can the probability of damage occurring. For mass media risk reporting, this definition means that reports should be made on all components so that the recipient can form an informed opinion and accordingly decide whether he or she wants to take the risk or not.

The importance of risk communication was recognized early on in the Anglo-Saxon language area. There is a tradition of linguistic (e.g. Benjamin Whorf ) and cultural anthropological research (e.g. Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky) that refers to the cultural imprint of risk-related semantics. In general, the assessment of risks today takes place in interdisciplinary discourses, which are characterized by different professional codes and semantics, but which have to be translated into everyday language that is more or less shared by all actors. There is a considerable potential for risk in this.


Due to the intense strain on the performance organs that goes beyond everyday movement, exercising is associated with risks, such as injury. This still when sport, about the increasing high-performance sports , the extreme sports or risky sport is operated up to the physical and mental limits of the athlete or the technical limits of the sport or the sports equipment. The risks also increase if performance-enhancing substances, for example in the form of doping, are added to the high level of stress on the organism.

In sports science , a distinction is made between different forms of risk: The " objective risk " describes the hazard posed by the thing - a particular sport or piece of sports equipment. This risk is independent of a person who does sport, it is inherent in sport. The “ subjective risk ”, however, depends on the current level of competence of the individual athlete. The same sport involves very different personal risks depending on the ability, knowledge, experience and practice of the individual. The so-called " residual risk " is understood to mean the potential for uncertainty, which cannot be avoided even with the greatest care in preparation, reliable use of all available safety aids and conscientious compliance with the rules of conduct in the hazardous situation, because it is subject to factors such as external influence or a momentary failure, on which the athlete has almost no influence.

The risk exposure of the individual athlete depends not only on his competence status but also essentially on his attitude, his ability to reflect, his value awareness and the level of responsibility with which he practices his sport. They are considered to be of decisive importance in dealing with risk: The venture researcher Siegbert A. Warwitz differentiates between a type of athlete, whom he describes as a “risk taker ”, “ gambler ” or “ thrill athlete ”, and the “ daring ” he Characterized under the term " skill athlete ": While the thrill athlete is essentially geared towards the desire for the thrill that comes from a dangerous situation, i.e. the experience of risk becomes an end in itself, the skill athlete is less interested in the experience of risk than in a certain sport, such as that Paragliding or rock climbing , which is associated with certain risks, but which he can manage responsibly by acquiring appropriate skills. While the thrill athlete largely relies on his luck when taking the risk and makes his fate largely dependent on chance, the skilled athlete carefully weighs sense and nonsense, measure and limits of his risky actions against each other and only takes so much risk how he can take responsibility with his acquired knowledge and ability (skill) and master it relatively reliably.

The risks that are always associated with sport to varying degrees and the resulting opportunities for daring, proving courage and proving oneself are highly adventurous and make a large part of the attractiveness not only in appropriately designed school sport, but also in recreational sport for adults out.


In the doctrines of religion , human happiness beyond the finite life is linked to a promise of salvation that is essentially only to be kept in the hereafter. This has considerable consequences for the attitude to life and the way of life in this world and requires a stable foundation of belief in order to be able to endure the uncertainties and make them sustainable through a certainty of faith. The beliefs are based on intuitive and individual experiences of certain mediators ( religious founders , prophets , shamans, etc.) , who were given these in religious-spiritual experiences, which they then passed on to other believers. The risk of believers and the resulting doubts about faith result from the unprovability of faith in the sense of the philosophy of science . In the religious field, the value-related term venture is primarily used compared to risk.


In decision theory , one speaks of a risk if, in the case of uncertainty, there are probabilities of occurrence via environmental conditions. If there are no probabilities, one speaks of uncertainty . Risks are therefore associated with decisions under uncertainty , for which one knows the possible environmental conditions, but cannot state the probability of occurrence. Their subspecies Decision under Risk , in which the decision maker knows the probabilities of the occurrence of the possible environmental conditions, is also associated with risk. The main risk here is that the decision-maker has only incomplete information in all of these cases . Classic example of a Decision under security is arbitrageur , which all market data ( stock prices , market prices , market interest rates ) are present at the time of arbitrage.

Be differentiated

  • Risks before the decision time ( ):
    • Decision risk: A decision is made, whereby deviations from the expected value of the result are possible.
    • Result risk: Risk in the sense of a result uncertainty as a result of a risk-related decision-making situation.
    • Opportunity risk: Risk that another decision would have been more favorable.
  • Risks after the decision point:
    • Action risk,
    • Plan and deviation risk,
    • Loyalty risk.
  • Risks that exist at all times:
    • Existential risk.

A risk shift occurs when the risks of individual actors in a closed system are reduced to such an extent that the systemic risk increases (e.g. in the case of pension insurance or through derivatives) or vice versa. Risk shifts are also possible between different groups of actors (e.g. through legal requirements for health or life insurance).


The banking risks include credit risk , market risk and liquidity risk . Credit risks are made up of counterparty default risk , fulfillment risk ( advance payment risk , payment risk ) and the transfer stop risk associated with country risk . In proprietary trading , credit institutions are confronted with market risk, which consists of interest rate risk , exchange rate risk , concentration risk ( cluster risk , granularity ) and market liquidity risk. Liquidity risk occurs in all companies, but banks are particularly affected because of maturity transformation .


Insurance protection is the insured risk assumed by the insurer in the insurance contract , i.e. the protection of the policyholder or an insured person against insured risks. Insured risks are those events, the occurrence of which constitutes an important part of the insured event according to the contract . From a legal point of view, the insurance contract obliges the insurer to bear the insured risk against payment of an insurance premium according to the risk theory . In risk theory, the risk is characterized by the uncertainty and - in the event of occurrence - by the economic disadvantage for the risk taker. The “underwriting risk” is the “risk and the possibility that the number or scope of the claims exceeds the extent on which the premium calculation is based”.

Other business risks

Non-banks outside of the banking and insurance sectors exhibit some cross-industry risk types , which are collectively referred to as economic corporate risks. This includes

They can occur in isolation or in combination and must be treated as part of risk management.

Risk management

Risk management is the planned handling of risks (opportunities and dangers) in companies . Risk management comprises the phases of risk identification , risk analysis , risk assessment ( risk quantification ), risk aggregation , risk management and risk controlling . Similar to the management circle, the phases are run through repeatedly and thus represent a cycle. The use of risk information for business decisions can also be viewed as part of risk management (assessment and evaluation of the risk-return profile of options for action, such as investments).

The risk identification phase is often referred to as the greatest challenge, as the fact that there is any risk at all must first be recognized ( risk perception ). This requires corresponding information systems (e.g. key figures or corresponding organizational structures). The risk quantification attempt to quantify the risk now recognized. This is done in two steps. First, the probability of occurrence and the extent of the damage if the damage occurs are determined (see also risk matrix ). By multiplying these two key figures, a kind of risk potential arises , the expected damage value. Depending on the type of risk, different probability distributions can be used for the quantitative description of a risk. The extent of a risk is measured by means of a risk measure . One challenge in this phase is the comprehensible transfer of qualitative risks, such as B. a strike or a volcanic eruption, into a quantitative set of figures (risk quantification). The calculation of the total scope from several individual risks is the task of risk aggregation . The risk management is now concerned with the question of how the individual economic subject to the risk bypasses. There are also the options of self-bearing the damage, avoiding damage, passing it on to others and limiting risk. Approaches to risk limitation can be divided into cause-related and effect-related. Cause-related strategies aim ex ante at positively influencing the amount of possible losses or their probability distribution. Effect-related strategies are aimed at cushioning or shifting risks that have become apparent. Cause-related strategies are risk avoidance and risk reduction. Impact-related strategies are risk transfer and risk prevention. Risk diversification relates to both types of strategy.

See also


  • Niels Gottschalk-Mazouz (2011): Risk. In: M. Düwell, C. Hübenthal, M. Werner (Eds.): Handbook Ethics. 3rd edition, Stuttgart: Metzler Verlag, pp. 502–508 ( PDF )
  • Walter Krämer: Hysteria as a locational disadvantage, or: Germany, a republic of alarmists? Lecture on risk perception at the annual nuclear technology conference 2005, atw - International Magazine for Nuclear Energy, L / 3 - October 2005, pp. 570–575, ISSN  1431-5254
  • Ortwin Renn: Basic options for risk assessment and risk assessment . Hazardous substances - keeping air clean 65 (9), pp. 383–386 (2005), ISSN  0949-8036
  • Siegbert A. Warwitz: Do children need risks and dares? In: Grundschule 11, 2002, p. 54 ff

Web links

Wiktionary: Risk  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Risk  Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Peter Koch, Insurance Industry: An Introductory Overview , 2013, p. 2
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  6. ^ Friedrich Kluge , Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 1960, p. 602
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