Babies and children * Young people * Healthy living

Santa branded a public health menace

Zone default image May even spread swine flu, expert warns

Santa should swap his mince pies and brandy for Rudolf's carrots, and ditch the sleigh and reindeer for a bike - or walk, says a public health expert in the British Medical Journal today.

As good as branding the childhood legend a public health menace, Dr. Nathan Grills from Monash University in Australia says the current image of Santa promotes obesity, drink-driving, speeding and all round unhealthy lifestyle. Streuth!

“Santa only needs to affect health by 0.1% to damage millions of lives,” said the Christmas killjoy/public health expert, and added that the man in red should be using his popularity to promote healthy living.

Whilst other scientists were cracking cancer genetic codes and such like, Dr. Grills reviewed the literature on Santa's impact on public health.

His investigation revealed "very high Santa awareness" amongst children.

Indeed among American school children Santa Claus was the only fictional character more highly recognised than Ronald McDonald, the paper said.

However, Dr. Grills found Santa to be a reckless role model for the world's children. Although banned from smoking in public, images of him enjoying a pipe or cigar are still found on Christmas cards.

And with a few billion houses to visit in a night, all those brandys left out by children would soon take him over the limit. Not exactly setting an example.

Ditto the mince pies. According to the study, there was "a correlation between countries that venerate Santa Claus and those that have high levels of childhood obesity," leading the researchers to suggest that he should be eating the carrots instead of Rudolph.

Santa also came under fire for speeding, and promoting extreme sports such as roof surfing and chimney jumping, without so much as a seatbelt or helmet in sight.

Also, Santa has real potential to spread infectious diseases. A survey found that Santa is sneezed or coughed on up to 10 times a day. "Unsuspecting little Johnny" could easily pick up swine flu along with his present while sitting on Santa's lap, the paper said.

Dr. Grills actually donned the red suit on two occasions and had this to say of his experience: "I was hugged and kissed by snotty kids at each performance and was never offered alcohol swabs to wipe my rosy cheeks between clients."


This article was published on Thu 17 December 2009

Image © © deanm1974 -

Related Stories

Use this story

Link to this page
Printer friendly version

Share this page