Andrew George Thomas, PhD.

Implications of short-term mating on mental and sexual health


Evolutionary psychologist differentiate between long- and short-term mating strategies - two styles of mating thought to have been useful to ancestral men and women depending on their circumstances. Recent research has found that individuals are able to change their preference for short- and long-term mating within the laboratory.

But, what are the implications of a strong preference for short-term mating? There is plenty of research showing that risky sexual behaviour is linked to negative health outcomes. However, a connection has yet to be made between preference for short-term mating (socio-sexuality) and the tendency to engage in risky sexual behaviour. Similarly, it is unknown whether having predominantly short-term relationships has any negative impact on mental health.

If an association is found between desire for short-term mating and negative sexual/mental health outcomes, then this has important implications for the body of evolutionary psychological research which shows that mating strategies are malleable. Factors which cause people to shift towards short-term mating, become possible factors which can influence risky sexual behaviour and therefore negative health and relationship outcomes.

Thomas-lab researchers currently exploring this issue

  • TDC

  • Publications related to this research area

    Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual Strategies Theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100(2), 204-232. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.100.2.204

    Calvert, C., Baisley, K., Doyle, A. M., Maganja, K., Changalucha, J., Watson-Jones, D., . . . Ross, D. A. (2013). Risk factors for unplanned pregnancy among young women in Tanzania. The Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, 39(4), e2-e2. doi: 10.1136/jfprhc-2012-100389

    Thomas, A. G., & Stewart-Williams, S. (2018). Mating strategy flexibility in the laboratory: Preferences for long- and short-term mating change in response to evolutionarily relevant variables. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39(1), 82-93. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.10.004 [link]

    Wellings, K., Jones, K. G., Mercer, C. H., Tanton, C., Clifton, S., Datta, J., . . . Johnson, A. M. (2013). The prevalence of unplanned pregnancy and associated factors in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). Lancet, 382(9907), 1807-1816. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62071-1