Types of risk

Types of risk

What is risk?

The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007, updated 2018) defines risk as a potential for harms, discomforts and/or inconvenience for participants and/or others. It involves:

  • The likelihood that a harm (or discomfort or inconvenience) will occur; and
  • The severity of the harm, including its consequences.

Types of risk

Physical harms: including injury, illness, pain;

Psychological harms: including feelings of worthlessness, distress, guilt, anger or fear related, for example, the disclosure of sensitive or embarrassing information, or learning about a genetic possibility of developing an untreatable disease;

Devaluation of personal worth: including being humiliated, manipulated or in other ways treated disrespectfully or unjustly;

Social harms: including damage to social networks or relationships with others; discrimination in access to benefits, services, employment or insurance; social stigmatisation; and findings of previously unknown paternity status;

Economic harms: including the imposition of direct or indirect costs on participants;

Legal harms: including discovery and prosecution of criminal conduct.

(Commonwealth of Australia, 2007, updated 2018)

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