Basic needs


We explain what the basic human needs are and what are the main ones. Also, what is Maslow’s pyramid.

basic needs drinking water
Drinking water is one of the essential basic needs.

What are basic needs?

When speaking of basic needs or fundamental needs of humanity, reference is made to the minimum essential elements that human beings need to live.

There is no single definition or criterion on which or how many there are, but it all depends on the philosophical perspective from which they are approached. Thus, according to some authors they are few, finite and well classifiable (Max-Neef, Elizalde and Hopenhayn), while in the traditional economic perspective they are few, but infinite and insatiable.

In what the different existing criteria coincide in relation to the basic needs of the individual, is that they are characteristic of humanity, so that are shared by the species across cultures and historical periods possible, although they have tried to be satisfied through procedures, strategies and systems that are historically very different from each other.

In addition, it is recognized that these fundamental needs are:

  • Simultaneous. All are needed at the same time.
  • Additional. If one fails, the others fail.
  • Not tradable. It is not acceptable for them to be part of a business.

The satisfaction of these minimum human needs also serves as an indicator to distinguish the different strata of the population that is in a situation of poverty. Those who lead an existence incapable of meeting these fundamental needs are those at the bottom of the social pyramid.

Finally, these basic needs dictate the fundamental rights of every human being, in accordance with natural law and international agreements on Human Rights (HR). They are inalienable, inalienable and proper to any individual of the species, regardless of their condition and context.

It can help you: Human development

What are the basic needs?

basic needs affection leisure
Leisure and affection are also basic needs.

According to some authors, the basic human needs are the following:

  • Subsistence. That is, food and water to stay alive, but also access to preventive and curative health.
  • Protection. In other words, keep yourself safe from the dangers and inclemencies of nature: rain, cold, etc.
  • Affected. That is, consideration of others, love of others and acceptance of others.
  • Participation. Which is equivalent to being considered in society and having the right to be part of it.
  • Leisure. In other words, free time and rest, time for reflection.
  • Understanding. This equates to education, access to learning and knowledge.
  • Creation. That is, the possibility of inventing, composing, interpreting, imagining.
  • Identity. That is, a proper name, a personal history and its formal recognition by others.
  • Freedom. What does it mean to be the master of one’s own actions, to decide for one’s own body and one’s own life, without submitting to the will of others.

Maslow’s Pyramid

maslow basic needs
Maslow’s pyramid illustrates what the most urgent needs are.

American psychologist Abraham Maslow idealized in the mid-20th century a way of classifying and representing human needs on a kind of scale that measures its degree of urgency. This scale is represented in a now famous pyramid called Maslow’s Pyramid.

In this pyramid, the different types of needs follow one another from the base of the pyramid (where the fundamental human needs shared by the entire species are found). As you climb to the top, the needs become less urgent and more abstract..

That is, in this ascending path, one goes from supporting the body to professional fulfillment or personal affection. Although, it is impossible to climb from one step to the next if the previous one is not satisfied.

Maslow’s Pyramid is made up of the following levels:

  • Psychological needs. Owning the body and maintenance.
  • security needs. That is, those that guarantee a continuous existence free from sieges (from climatic elements, but also from work, etc.).
  • Membership needs. They have to do with the individual’s feeling of belonging to a particular society (love, camaraderie, etc.).
  • Recognition needs. That is, valued by other members of society, which affects self-esteem.
  • Self-actualization needs. Which are the most abstract and complex type of needs, and have to do with moral, spiritual, creative or other self-fulfillment, that is, deeply individual and subjective needs.

More on: Maslow’s Pyramid


  • “Fundamental Human Needs” on Wikipedia.
  • “Basic human needs” at CONICET Mendoza (Argentina).
  • “What are ‘basic needs’?” in savings for everyone.
  • “Our Hierarchy of Needs” in Psychology Today.
  • “Maslow’s Pyramid Basic Necessities” at UNHCR-UNHCR.