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Social needs barely differ per age group

25 August 2020

The fulfilment of social needs, such as receiving validation, status or affection, hardly differ across a person’s lifetime. What’s more, the differences within age groups are more significant than the differences between them. These are the conclusions of a study conducted by UG researchers, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

Mental wellbeing

Social needs and the extent to which we can satisfy these have a large impact on our wellbeing, especially our mental wellbeing. Individuals who have a strong need for affection but who do not receive affection from the people around them can experience considerable hardship as a result. It is therefore important to know whether these needs, and the extent to which they can be satisfied, change throughout a person’s lifetime.


The research was carried out by Vera Buijs, Bertus Jeronimus, Gerine Lodder, Nardi Steverink and Peter de Jonge at the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences of the UG. They looked at questionnaires filled out by over 11,000 respondents from the ages of 18 to 87, who took part in the research project ‘HoeGekIsNederland’ (How Crazy is the Netherlands). The researchers investigated how well the participants were able to fulfil their needs, such as the need for validation, status and affection.

Scarce variation between age groups

The researchers expected that the extent of satisfaction would differ substantially between age groups. But the opposite turned out to be true: the extent to which respondents had their needs fulfilled was almost the same across all age groups. In other words, on average, young people received the same amount of validation, status and affection as elderly people. In addition, the fulfilment of needs contributed to the happiness of people in all age groups to a similar extent. This indicates that these needs are just as important for people of all ages.

Significant differences between individuals

Another striking finding was that there appeared to be high variation within age groups regarding the extent to which a certain need was fulfilled – and that this variation was almost the same across all age groups. This appears to indicate that the fulfilment of social needs differs strongly between individuals but that this cannot be explained by age.



Last modified:26 August 2020 12.03 p.m.
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