Home Society & Culture Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ Becomes Even More Relevant in Covid Era

Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ Becomes Even More Relevant in Covid Era

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The fear of COVID-19 infection has penetrated all over the world. This pandemic is jeopardising in every area of life such as psychological, physical, social, financial etc. Globally, governments have announced lockdowns to prevent further outbreaks of Covid. 

The World Health Organization has issued specific guidelines related to symptomatology and prevention (such as wash hands frequently, maintain social distancing, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, practice respiratory hygiene, seek medical care early, stay informed and follow advice by healthcare providers).

All the educational and religious institutions, restaurants, clubs, theatres, parks, and the transportation system is at rest to cease the public gathering. People are expected to remain inside their houses, to support social distancing and to adopt precautionary measures to the maximum.

Still, it is not absolutely followed. The question arises whether people do not understand the concept of social distancing or there is an unavoidable precursor behind such tendency. The way the coronavirus is spreading is threatening and demands taking maximum precautions possible. 

It is perhaps useful to understand the motivating factors, which may be impacting people’s reluctance to follow social distancing measures. This may help elucidate why people are risking their lives, and ignoring the nature of coronavirus.

We need to understand the theoretical association between Abraham Maslow’s theory of needs and the anxiety of COVID19 in unprecedented times. 

The well-known theory of Maslow’s theory of human needs fits well in the context of COVID-19 as he quoted in his theory that human needs are hierarchical arranged and supersedes the others when ones are satisfied. Maslow categorised needs such as physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualisation. 

The risk of life and its comprehension differ variably upon the individual’s age, personality traits, immunity, adoption of precautionary measures, environmental factors. It is interesting to ascertain (empirically) that to fulfil what kind of needs, an individual takes the risk of life and of what extent during such extreme conditions. It can also support to understand that to fulfil such needs, an individual can break the rules of protection. The unmet needs for self at a primary level might be the limiting factor towards the global crisis, even, people led to ignore government and health providers’ instructions. 

Classification of needs 

Maslow theory of needs Lower order needs Physiological needs 
Safety and security needs
Higher order needs Belongingness and love
Esteem needs 


The basic physiological needs are the lowest and fundamental for the survival of individuals. In this case, these needs seem to be overlapping with safety and security needs. Such needs usually emerge from deprivation and the absence of which develops a sense of anxiety and stress. It can be attributed to the idea that people may think an empty stomach (without food, water, and other routine essentials during lockdown) would take their life away before the coronavirus.

The panic buying of bulk grocery and toilet papers are noteworthy examples. The hoarding of such items highlights the perceived unpredictability of the future about the availability of such goods. To have these articles, people still step out of their homes to buy and attempt to endanger their lives at the cost of their living, until these items are procured. Therefore, people tend to satisfy their elementary needs at any price, despite being aware of the hard reality of coronavirus. 

Safety needs, in the case of COVID19 can be referred as to sense of being protected and safe to avoid the infection of corona virus. It includes need for the clean living area, masks, hand sanitisers, maintaining social distancing and toilet papers are safety needs for people to help them safe from COVID19. 

The need of belongingness and love: Diminishing the fear of COVID-19, there may be people whose dear ones are away from family members may produce some degree of fearfulness than those who are together in these exceptional circumstances. The needs of belonging to family, friends and relatives lower anxiety and fearfulness. The emotional needs requirements are satisfied via offline and online mediums of remaining in touch with near and dear ones. The regular contact with family members and friends escapes the feeling of anxiety, stress and fear.

The fourth level is esteem needs. These needs are two types internal (such as self-satisfaction) and external esteem (public acclaim) needs.  Individuals tend to gain satisfaction, recognition and acquire status. Once the individuals attain the first three needs, afterwards only, they would be encouraged to reach and achieve these needs. This time, the individuals are working from home, doing and submitting, presenting work online, reporting to officials, writing down needful, making video-conferencing.

For an instance, many people upload videos and photographs on social media while donating to people in crisis. It is always controversial whether they satisfy internal needs or external needs by doing so. Thus, they contribute to society in a possible capacity.

The highest stage is self-actualisation. The urge to help the community, services provided by the front line workers (e.g. medical fraternity, police officers, etc.) to support people in the maximum possible ways. Through such efforts, they reflect reaching the highest state of human needs – self-actualisation. These people endanger life in the jeopardising circumstances to giving their best services to save the life of many people.  


This theory has also relevance during pandemic to understand the hierarchy of needs. Yet, it is to be tested on a sample of population in different regions and its association with fear of COVID19 can be determined. That will be suitable to suggest ways of satisfying human needs during traumatic conditions so that people are not encouraged to take perils of life.

Parmveer Singh is an Assistant Professor of Extension Education at Khalsa College Amritsar in India. You can connect with him on Twitter @Parmsingh92


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