The fulfilment of social needs is essential for human beings to function well and thrive, but little is known about how social needs are differentially associated with types of well-functioning. This study investigates how the three social needs as proposed by Social Production Function theory—the needs for affection, behavioral confirmation, and status—relate to psychological strengths (self-evaluation, hope, and self-regulatory ability), loneliness, and subjective well-being (life satisfaction, positive and negative affect). Moreover, possible mechanisms are explored. Using the first release sample of the LifeLines study (N = 13,301) and four other samples (N = 1094, N = 456, N = 415, and N = 142), we found that the three social needs yielded a robust factor structure, and related differentially to gender and education. Their associations with all three psychological strengths were substantial. Affection need fulfilment related most strongly to both emotional and social loneliness, but the expected stronger association of behavioral confirmation with social loneliness was not found. As expected, affection related most strongly to life satisfaction and least strongly to positive affect, whereas status related most strongly to positive affect and least strongly to life satisfaction. Of all social needs, behavioral confirmation had comparatively the strongest negative association with negative affect. With regard to mechanisms, affection was found to have a partial indirect effect on life satisfaction via self-evaluation, hope, and self-regulatory ability, while status had a modest indirect effect via self-regulatory ability on positive affect. It is concluded that different need fulfillments make unique contributions to different types of well-functioning, implying that a mix of social need satisfiers (i.e. different kinds of social relationships and other social provisions) are needed for individuals to function well. This knowledge may support interventions and policy directed at both individual and societal well-being.

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Journal of Happiness Studies
Universitair Medisch Centrum Groningen

Steverink, B.J.M, Lindenberg, S, Spiegel, T, & Nieboer, A.P. (2019). The Associations of Different Social Needs with Psychological Strengths and Subjective Well‑Being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 21, 799–824. doi:10.1007/s10902-019-00107-9