Maslow Hierarchy with regards to COVID-19

Maslow Hierarchy diagram

COVID-19 through the lens of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and Bhutan’s Response.

In 1943, an iconic psychologist Abraham Maslow presented a theory of human motivation that has remained for decades with acceptance and praise. It is known as the Maslow Hierarchy of needs. The basic idea of the hierarchy is conceptualized in a pyramid with five levels. The levels represent five categories of need with ‘higher’ needs being dependent on the fulfillment of ‘lower’ needs. Therefore, if your lower needs are not fulfilled then you won’t be fulfilling the ‘higher’ needs.

Here in this article, we will discuss the Maslow hierarchy of needs based on the COVID-19 situation and Bhutan’s response.

Physiological Needs

The lowest order of needs involves satisfying our most basic biological needs such as food, shelter, and water. It is very fundamental for survival. On top of this, a healthy body is required for proper functioning. It requires the proper amount of sleep, exercise, and an appropriate balance of healthy substances are required.

With deprivation or absence of basic physiological needs, it can attribute to the development of stress and anxiety. People start to think that hunger and starvation can take their life before COVID-19 does. Hoarding and buying excessive are the signs that a person has the fear of going to starvation in the realm of the pandemic.

For this Bhutanese people have been quite fortunate. The government has been placing the best strategies to help meet the needs. So to meet the basic physiological needs of the people in the lockdown; essentials are delivered at home, the Kidu is granted to those who are not able to afford it. Thus making life much easier to bear in the lockdown.

Safety Needs

Once the basic physiological needs are achieved. Maslow believed that the next level of needs is triggered in the individuals. The need for safety includes functioning in an environment that is physically and psychologically safe.

Safety needs in the case of COVID-19 could be a sense of being protected and safe to avoid the infection. This could include the need for a clean living area, mask, hand sanitizers, maintaining social distancing, and access to correct information.

I am a proud Bhutanese and have a deep respect for the government for whatever is done to keep the whole nation safe. It’s a vision of our great king not to lose a single to this pandemic. With such a guardian with us, Bhutanese safety needs are already looked upon. Don’t pressure yourself to achieve higher needs as its unfavorable for many in this crisis situation

Belongingness and Love Need

According to Maslow’s hierarchy, the next need for the hierarchy involves feeling loved and accepted. This can be any relationship. It could be romantic relationships as well as ties to friends and family. It also includes the need to feel belonged to a social group.

During this lockdown, there are many people who are far from their loved ones. It may produce some degree of fearfulness than those who are together in this exceptional situation.

Still, this emotional requirement can be fulfilled via online forums(social media and telephone connectivity). It keeps in touch with them. There are studies which have shown that remaining in regular contact with family members, friends, and loved one can help in escaping the feeling of stress, anxiety, and fear.

Esteem Needs

Once the person’s need for belonging and safety are fulfilled, the next higher need is activated. According to the Maslow hierarchy, esteem needs include two components. The first involves feeling self-confident and good about oneself. The second involves feeling valued by others(feeling that achievement and contributions have been recognized by others).

During this time when people are locked at home. It might be difficult to achieve these needs as our culture is focused on meeting the basic needs. However some are working from home, making presentations, meeting deadlines, some are teaching their children and might be meeting these needs by their peers and supervisor. Perhaps if you are living with family,  they might encourage you in your effort of doing things that you like. It can be dancing, making videos, or trying out new skills. It’s also important to remember that basing our happiness on others is not a permanent feeling.


The highest order of needs for humans, once all of the above needs are met, is self-actualization. It refers to feeling fulfilled or feeling that we are living up to our potential. Self-actualization is different for different people. For some, it involves helping others, and for others its the achievement of their creativity and skills. According to Maslow, achieving self-actualization is rare.

In the light of the current crisis as what the world is going through the majority of people are not able to focus on these higher needs. However, in Bhutan, many of the people are coming forward to help the government and each other. Either by donating or volunteering which I feel is the sense of self-actualization that people have in them.

Most importantly we shouldn’t assume that all others are able to focus on their creativity and you are not. In this crisis situation, we should always remember we all are different and our parts are different. Staying safe and helping each other is more than meeting our higher needs.


The Maslow hierarchy has also pointed out that it’s not required to follow the needs. As one behavior might meet two or more needs. For example, Bhutanese are sharing a meal or essential in this crisis with others who do not have anything. It fulfills the physiological need for food but it also meets the need for belonging. While some of the fellow Bhutanese are working as frontline helping others. Which provides them a sense of social connection and fulfillment.

Together we will win this battle with a sense of belonging and being there for each other though in distance. If you are having difficulty and not able to connect to the right sources for help. Then please kindly write to us using the counseling form under the service section of our website. We will try to connect and help as much as we can. We are together in this battle.


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