What Is a Need?


A need is a basic requirement in order to be able to function and thrive. It is usually contrasted with a want, which is something that a person desires but that is not required for survival or well-being. There are many different types of needs, such as a need for food, water and shelter, or a need for education or health care. A need can also be viewed as an emotional or psychological state, such as the need for love or acceptance.

The term need is widely used in philosophy, psychology, sociology, economics and politics. There are several theories on the nature of human needs and how they should be met, but most of them share a common ground in recognizing that all people require the ability to survive and function without undue stress or harm. There are also a variety of opinions on how needs should be determined and whether they are subjective or objective.

In English, the word need may be used as a verb or an adjective. It can also be found in the form of a noun, as in the need for air or the need to win. When used as a verb, the meaning is similar to the need for, although it generally indicates a more urgent or critical situation. For example, a student might say that they need to study for an exam or that they need to complete a project by a certain date. When used as a noun, the meaning is slightly different and can be more abstract. For example, a need for peace is an internal motivation that can be triggered by environmental or personal factors.

Defining a need can be difficult because it can vary from person to person and can change at various stages of a person’s life. A person’s needs can be related to their location, personal preference and culture. For example, a need for water can be different from the need for electricity in a particular climate. A person’s need for housing can change with their family size and career. A need for transportation can be different depending on the distance between their home and work.

Another issue is the way that needs are defined and interpreted by various organizations. For instance, some politicians delegate the authority to determine what constitutes a need to healthcare professionals. This can lead to a misguided and narrow understanding of what a need is. In some cases, a need is not satisfied because it is not recognized as one or because the healthcare system cannot meet the needs of a specific individual.

It is important to distinguish between needs and wants. Needs are essential requirements for survival and well-being, whereas wants are items that are desired but not necessary to reach a goal or achieve a purpose. For example, a need for a car might be considered a want while a need to travel to work by train might be considered a need.