Unhealthy Santa Claus should walk, give up brandy: Study

2009-12-17 09:58

SANTA should get off his sleigh and walk, and lay off the brandy

and mince pies, says an Australian study published today that criticises Father

Christmas for being a bad role model for children.

The current image of Santa Claus promotes obesity, drink-driving,

speeding and an unhealthy lifestyle, says a study from Australia’s Monash

University published in the British Medical Journal.

“Epidemiologically there is a correlation between countries that

venerate Santa Claus and those that have high levels of childhood obesity,” says

the research.

While a clear link has not been established, there “is a

possibility that Santa promotes a message that obesity is synonymous with

cheerfulness and joviality,” it says.

Santa should go on diet and the tradition of leaving him cookies,

mince pies, milk, brandy or sherry should cease, it says. Instead, he could

share the carrots and celery sticks often left for his reindeer.

“Santa might also be encouraged to adopt a more active method to

deliver toys – swapping his reindeer for a bike or simply walking or jogging,”

the study says.

It also questions his drinking saying the brandies often left for

him would mean that with a few billion houses to visit, he would soon be driving

his sleigh over the limit.

Santa impersonators also have potential to spread infectious

diseases: if they sneeze or cough around 10 times a day, all the children who

sit on their laps may end up with swine flu, the researchers say.

And although Santa is banned from smoking in public, images of him

enjoying a pipe or cigar can still be found on Christmas cards.

The study also accuses Santa of promoting speeding, disregard for

road rules, and extreme sports such as roof surfing and chimney jumping –

although he is never shown wearing a seatbelt or a helmet.

Santa is one of the most famous fictional characters in the world

and is even more recognised in the United States than Ronald McDonald while also

gaining popularity in the developing world, the study says.

His popularity should be used to promote healthy living, says the

study, offering a new image for Santa in slimmed-down form and on a


“We need to be aware that Santa has an ability to influence people,

and especially children, towards unhealthy behaviour,” the researchers say.

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