Science has busted the idea that Santa Claus rewards children based on how nice or naughty they have been.
A study in the Christmas issue of medial journal the BMJ suggest that money seems to play a greater role in determining a visit by Santa.
The research found that children in hospitals in the most deprived areas, those poorer communities, are less likely to receive a visit from the man in the red suit.
A team of researchers from University College London, the University of Edinburgh and Harvard University in the US surveyed every hospital in the UK with a paediatric ward to find out if Santa had visited during Christmas 2015.
Children, as all parents know, rarely admit to being truly naughty so the researchers had to find other indicators. They looked at rates of absenteeism from primary school and conviction rates in young people aged 10 to 17 years.
Just to make sure remoteness wasn’t a factor, they also judged the distance from hospital to the North Pole where Santa’s headquarters are said to be located.
Santa Claus visited most of the paediatric wards in all four UK countries: 89% in England, 100% in Northern Ireland, 93% in Scotland and 92% in Wales.
However, the chances of him not visiting were significantly higher for paediatric wards in poorer areas.
There was no correlation with school absenteeism, conviction rates or distance to the North Pole.
The researchers are unable to explain why this association exists but one possible theory may be that Santa Claus is forced to sustain inequality. Perhaps, he is contractually not allowed to change anyone’s socioeconomic status.
“It has long been thought that Santa Claus gives presents to nice but not naughty children,” say the authors.
“This is the first study, to our knowledge, to dispel the myth that Santa visits children based on behaviour and suggests socioeconomic deprivation plays a greater role in determining a visit.
“Whether his contract needs to be reviewed or local Santas employed in ‘hard to reach’ areas, all we want is for every child to be happy this Christmas.”
Future research may include a deeper look at other variables such as the quality of whisky left for Santa in hospitals, availability of Christmas dinners, availability of chimneys and free parking spaces for reindeers.
Santa also has increasing competition.
The study identified other characters, better described a superheroes or celebrities, visiting children in hospital.
The researchers found 23 different fictional and non-fictional visitors bringing festive cheer. The most popular were elves but there were also clowns, Elsa from the animated movie Frozen and real firemen.
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