Exploring dairy farmers’ quality of life perceptions – A Swiss case study

Contzen, Sandra; Häberli, Isabel (2021). Exploring dairy farmers’ quality of life perceptions – A Swiss case study Journal of Rural Studies, 88, pp. 227-238. Elsevier 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2021.11.007

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Dairy farming is physically hard, with limited freedom due to twice-daily milking duties and low revenues. Moreover, globalization, deregulation and trade liberalization have significantly changed the conditions of dairy farming. How can dairy farmers in this context maintain good quality of life? What makes a life one of good quality? This paper uses a qualitative bottom-up approach to understand Swiss dairy farmers' and their families' individual criteria of quality of life, aiming to reconsider and complement the often used, standardized criteria of quality of life surveys. The analysis of the qualitative interview data reveals the importance of objective non-material as well as subjective components of quality of life. The paper shows that, contrary to what could be expected based on the farmer's ethic of being hardworking over long hours, farmers emphasize ‘time’ as an important criterion of quality of life, referring not only to leisure time, time with the family or time to lie in, but also time to think and plan. The paper further stresses the importance of eudaimonic wellbeing, which is largely missing in standardized quality of life studies on farming families and also some general quality of life concepts. In this regard, the paper highlights the lack of social recognition of farmers and the extent to which pressure and criticism from the non-farming population negatively influences farmers' quality of life. The paper concludes that to fully understand farming families' quality of life and thus the social sustainability of family farming, the subjective dimension of quality of life, especially eudaimonic wellbeing, needs to be fully incorporated in future studies, regardless of their methodological approach. Moreover, alluding to resilience research, the paper urges researchers to include ‘time to think and plan’ into future investigations, assuming that more time for self-reflection increases not only the subjective but also the objective dimension of quality of life.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL
School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Agriculture
School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Agriculture > Rural Economics and Sociology


Contzen, Sandra0000-0001-6508-1313 and
Häberli, Isabel


H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)








Simon Lutz

Date Deposited:

10 Dec 2021 11:08

Last Modified:

10 Dec 2021 11:08

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Family farming, Quality of life, Swiss agriculture, Dairy farming, Qualitative bottom-up approach





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