Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES)

An innovative, interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach

The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES) began operations in January 2011. It studies the effects of the post-industrial economy and society on the development of situations of vulnerability using a longitudinal and comparative approach. The NCCR LIVES aims to better understand the phenomenon of vulnerability as well as the means to overcome it so as to contribute to the emergence of innovative social policy measures.

Vulnerability vs Resources

How do people deal with a changing world? Synonymous as it may be with lengthening of the life span and increase in material comfort, the development of post-industrial society is also a source of new hazards restricting the self-fulfilment of many people. Confronted with change in family, religious identities, made insecure by the major shifts of economic activity in a globalised world, there are many who feel or who actually find themselves in a situation of vulnerability. In the course of their lives many people are exposed to crisis situations, either because they lack key resources or because their living conditions deteriorate drastically. These processes cause human suffering and social exclusion, and they come with considerable financial costs.

As a result, investigating the mechanisms which allow some individuals to adapt better than others to the development of society is becoming a priority for better understanding the phenomenon of vulnerability and the means of overcoming it.

Life course

Up till now, studies have been focused on short-term observation, either of particular aspects of living (work, family, health) or of particular phases in the life span (youth, old age). The fourteen research projects of the NCCR LIVES are characterized by an innovative, interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach which involves studying and analysing the complete life course of an individual and understanding individual situations in their social and institutional context. The life trajectories of some 25,000 people are studied under several aspects (health, family, work and institutions).


The NCCR LIVES involves close cooperation among researchers in the disciplines of psychology, sociology, social psychology, socioeconomics, economics and demography who are attached to the universities of Lausanne, Geneva, Berne, Fribourg, Zurich, and the University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland. The NCCR LIVES is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and hosted jointly by the Universities of Lausanne and Geneva.