New Study Shows People Worldwide Value Friends, Family Most

The COVID-19 pandemic has put people’s values under a microscope, shining a light on who and what our systems and communities value most. Around the world, as social safety nets were strained, governments struggled to serve their citizens and existing inequalities become exacerbated, communities also came together in any way they could — whether it be through drive-by birthday parties and graduations or mass crowdfunding efforts — and communal care came to the forefront of our collective values, even in the midst of chaos.

A new study from Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American think tank, reflects this commitment to one another. The study, which surveyed nearly 19,000 adults in 17 countries where they find meaning in their lives and what keeps them going, found that family remains the top source of motivation for most people around the world.

[READ: Best Countries for COVID-19 Vaccinations]

Australia had the highest percentage of respondents who cite family as their No. 1 motivator, with 55% of Australian respondents mentioning their family or children when describing what infuses meaning into their life.

“I think family is very important in my life,” one 52-year-old Australian woman said in response to what gives her life meaning. “You practice what you preach. And contributing to society and instilling strong values and a sense of respect in my children to treat others as they want to be treated.”

Said another Australian: “My life is good, family is good, I have a cat, everything is good.”

New Zealand and Greece also had more than half of their respondents report family as being their No. 1 motivator, with the U.S. and U.K. following closely behind.

However, while family ranked in the top for most of the countries surveyed, disparities still exist in the data — showing how cultural differences impact what people value.

In Taiwan, family ranked as the third most important facet to a meaningful life behind society and material well-being. Taiwan is the only country to have a plurality of respondents report society as their top reason for having motivation in life, with responses citing everything from their specific neighborhood to the island as a whole and reflecting ideals of communal support and care.

“Taiwanese people are kind, they are willing to make donations when serious incidents occur,” one respondent, a 57-year-old woman, said when reflecting on Taiwanese society. “Taiwanese people are lovely.”

Occupation and material well-being consistently scored in the top five sources of meaning in the lives of respondents from the majority of the countries surveyed. Friends were also consistently high-scoring — especially in the U.K. and U.S., where friendships came in as the No. 2 reason for having a meaningful life, after family.

Despite the disparities, the clear trend throughout the data is that a resounding care for others keeps people around the world going throughout the pandemic, despite the fact that this past summer, another Pew study found that the pandemic has increased social division.

“Community and purpose. Being able to contribute to community building helps form an identity that isn’t limited by familial or ancestral identity and promotes diversity,” one 28-year-old respondent from the U.S. said. “Events like a global pandemic should foster unity as such a virus is largely nondiscriminatory. I think particularly with the change in narrative associated with change in leadership, we will see less divisive ideals and start to take community and unity seriously as priorities.”

More from U.S. News

People Across the World Say Pandemic Has Increased Social Division

10 Safest Countries in the World

The 25 Best Countries in the World

New Study Shows People Worldwide Value Friends, Family Most originally appeared on

Related Categories:

Latest News

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up