Men are more likely than women to hit the bottle when they're feeling upset.
The finding is based on a study by researchers at Yale University of Medicine.
The study was conducted on 54 healthy adult social drinkers, 27 women and 27 men.
The participants were exposed to three types of imagery scripts - stressful, alcohol-related, and neutral/relaxing - in separate sessions, on separate days and in random order.
The researchers then assessed their subjective emotions, behavioural/bodily responses, cardiovascular arousal as indicated by heart rate and blood pressure, and self-reported alcohol craving.
They found that while women felt more sad and anxious when feeling negative, in men this was linked to increases in alcohol craving.
"After listening to the stressful story, women reported more sadness and anxiety than men as well as greater behavioural arousal. But, for the men ... emotional arousal was linked to increases in alcohol craving. In other words, when men are upset, they are more likely to want alcohol," said Tara M. Chaplin, first author of the study.
The finding, the researchers state, means that men had more experience with alcohol, perhaps leading them to turn to alcohol as a way of coping with distress.
"Men's tendency to crave alcohol when upset may be a learned behaviour or may be related to known gender differences in reward pathways in the brain. And this tendency may contribute to risk for alcohol-use disorders," Chaplin said.
"Women are more likely than men to focus on negative emotional aspects of stressful circumstances, for example, they tend to 'ruminate' or think over and over again about their negative emotional state.
"Men, in contrast, are more likely to distract themselves from negative emotions, to try not to think about these emotions. Our finding that men had greater blood pressure response to stress, but did not report greater sadness and anxiety, may reflect that they are more likely to try to distract themselves from their physiological arousal, possibly through the use of alcohol."
The study will be published in the July issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research and is currently available at OnlineEarly.