Perception and communication of flood risks: a systematic review of empirical research

Risk Anal. 2013 Jan;33(1):24-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01844.x. Epub 2012 May 31.


Flood hazards are the most common and destructive of all natural disasters. For decades, experts have been examining how flood losses can be mitigated. Just as in other risk domains, the study of risk perception and risk communication has gained increasing interest in flood risk management. Because of this research growth, a review of the state of the art in this domain is believed necessary. The review comprises 57 empirically based peer-reviewed articles on flood risk perception and communication from the Web of Science and Scopus databases. The characteristics of these articles are listed in a comprehensive table, presenting research design, research variables, and key findings. From this review, it follows that the majority of studies are of exploratory nature and have not applied any of the theoretical frameworks that are available in social science research. Consequently, a methodological standardization in measuring and analyzing people's flood risk perceptions and their adaptive behaviors is hardly present. This heterogeneity leads to difficulties in comparing results among studies. It is also shown that theoretical and empirical studies on flood risk communication are nearly nonexistent. The article concludes with a summary on methodological issues in the fields of flood-risk perception and flood-risk communication and proposes an agenda for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Disaster Planning / methods*
  • Floods*
  • Humans
  • Perception*
  • Risk Management / methods*