At times of stress in a marriage, women are likely to head to the kitchen and men to the bedroom, according to researchers.

Psychologists have found the two sexes cope very differently during hard times, with women raiding the biscuit tin until they feel better, but men more likely to have sex or watch pornography.

The research also suggests that men want a quick fix from therapy, while women prefer to talk about their feelings and the past.

Dr John Barry, from University College London, who worked on the study, said: "For men, having sex is probably about dissociating from whatever troubles they are having at that particular time " it is escapism.

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"There are endorphins released during sex, so it provides a pleasurable feeling, which can act as a type of medication."

Louise Liddon, from Northumbria University, added: "Studies show a need to seek out fatty and sweet foods, which are related to the stress hormone cortisol, but we don't quite know why women do this more often."

The researchers surveyed 115 men and 250 women on the strategies they use to cope, with 27 per cent of men choosing sex and pornography, compared to only 11 per cent of women. While more than half of women said they comfort eat, fewer than a third of men ticked this box.

A second team asked 20 therapists for gender differences in people seeking help for their problems.

They reported that while women wanted to spend time discussing their feelings, men wanted a quick solution to get on with their lives.