As part of the study men and women were asked to imagine themselves as being 85 and near the end, and to rank the 30 things they regarded as important for a good, worthwhile life.
All groups rated close and enduring relationships, such as having close friends, having a good marriage or romantic partnership and having a happy family as primary importance to life satisfaction.
"Real, close relationships are often far from fun: whether it's being married, or raising children, or getting along with close friends and co-workers, all have their own challenges. Over the long run, they include many, many moments that aren't 'fun', but still most of us believe that those relationships are what make life worth living. That should tell us something about human nature," the paper quoted Dr Gregory Bonn, a lecturer in psychology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, who led the study as saying.
The participants also rated having a worthwhile career as more important to a good life than having a successful one.
Hobbies or leisure activities that were personally fulfilling were rated as slightly more important than rearing children who were successful.
Gaining wisdom and living a moral life also made it to the top 10 requirements for a worthwhile life, and were rated as being more important than being respected.
The lowest-ranked requirement was having had status or celebrity, but that was only slightly behind being religious. Power over other people was third bottom, just behind having many friends. Financial security was rated as more crucial than having amassed wealth, which was rated the fifth least important requirement.
The main requirements for a good life were found to be the same in each of the ethnic groups and cultures the researchers looked at.
The finding may suggest that the need for companionship is a biological imperative, the researchers said.