A grim economy is likely to predispose men to seek more sex partners, giving them more chances to reproduce, research suggests.
Men are likely to pursue short-term mating strategies when faced with a threatening environment, according to the sexual selection theory based on evolutionary psychology.
When made to think about their own death, mimicking conditions of "low survivability", men responded more vigorously to sexual pictures when viewing them, Omri Gillath, social psychology professor at the University of Kansas and colleagues found.
"We're biologically wired to reproduce, and the environment tells us the best strategy to use to make sure our genes are passed on," said Gillath, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reports.
"If you think you might die soon, there's a huge advantage for a man to use short-term mating strategies - to make sure there are a bunch of offspring and hope that some of them survive - but women can't do the same thing," said Gillath, according to a Kansas statement.
"The ultimate sign of low chances of surviving is death," Gillath added. "After threatening them with their own death, we asked them to look at a computer with sexual and non-sexual images, to see if death makes men more interested in sex."
People primed with death triggered a lever faster when they saw sexual images, compared to those primed with dental pain. The two groups exhibited no difference in response times for non-sexual images.
"In low survivability conditions, we think that men would be more apt to pursue sex outside of a monogamous relationship, looking for ways to spread their genes," Gillath said.
"When the environment is secure and you have enough food and things are working the way you would like them to, people are more likely to invest in their existing kids and stay with their current partner or prefer long-term mating strategies," said Gillath.