Stung by inflation, the typical American is averse to taking investment risks and is more concerned with just preserving what he has put away and maintaining his purchase power.

This is the main conclusion of a study conducted for the New York Stock Exchange by Opinion Research Corp. and released yesterday.

About 70 percent of the household financial decision makers surveyed said they would take only the smallest risks when investing, and preferred putting their money into cash savings, their own home or other real estate, and life insurance.

Common stock was considered moderately risky and was therefore considerably less popular as an investment.

About one-quarter of those surveyed said they would consider entering the market if they saw "safety and stability" and higher dividend returns. But only a small minority of this group said they actually would buy stock if they had more money to invest.

Those who said they were unlikely to invest in stocks in the near future cited as deterrents a lack of funds and the perception of the markets as "too risky."

The survey was conducted well before the market's recent unpswing.

"The American public shaken by inflation and fearing more to come, is deeply cautious in managing its money," the exchange asserted in the report, which was based on a survey of 2,740 households with annual incomes of $10,000 or more.

The study, conducted between last September and January, represented the exchange's first survey of individuals' attitudes toward investing since 1959.

Dr. William Freund, the NYSE's chief economist, said differences in methods used as well as in prevailing investment climates prevented exact comparisons between the current study results and those of 1959.

But he also observed in a memorandum, "Stock was considered a far better hedge against inflation in 1959 than it is today.

"In 1959, nearly 7 in 10 stockowners and 3 in 10 nonstockowners felt that common stock provides good protection against inflation. In 1977, barely one in 5 stockowning households and only one percent of nonstockowning households believed that common stock would help them keep up with inflation," Freund said.