According to a new research men under stress are more likely to take risks, correlating to such real-life behavior as gambling, smoking, unsafe sex and illegal drug use.
On the other hand, stressed women moderate their behavior and are less likely to make risky choices, the study found.
"Evolutionarily speaking, it's perhaps more beneficial for men to be aggressive in stressful, high-arousal situations when risk and reward are involved. Applied to financial risk taking, it's akin to competition for territory or other valuable resources," said Nichole Lighthall of the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology and lead author of the paper.
The researchers asked both sexes to play a game called 'the Balloon Analogue Risk Task'. The test involves inflating balloons to earn money.
In the control group in the study men and women displayed statistically the same levels of risk. However, in the stressed group, women were 30 per cent less likely to take a risk than a man.
"Men seem to enter more risky financial situations than women, which was part of the impetus for our study. But only in the stressed condition did we see any statistical differences in risky behavior between men and women," Lighthall said.
"Obviously, there are situations in the real world where risky behavior would not be beneficial. Sometimes being conservative, thoughtful and taking it slow are good things," Lighthall said.
The study has been published July 1 in the journal PLoS One.