Father Christmas visits naughty children too!

15 December 2016

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The adage that the surefire way to garner a visit from Father Christmas is not to be naughty has been dismissed as a myth by researchers in the UK and the US.

Writing in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Harvard's John Park recruited witnesses from nearly all 191 children's wards operated across the UK including in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England.

These individuals documented visits to their wards by Father Christmas and also any other superheroes who frequented their establishment over the festive period in 2015.

To gauge good behaviour, data were also gathered on school absenteeism rates and conviction rates relating to crimes committed by young people in each of the geographies where the wards were based.

Father Christmas visited 90% of the hospital wards that were studied. His best performance was achieved in Northern Ireland, where he achieved a 100% calling rate, followed closely by Scotland and Wales. He managed an average 89% visit rate in England.

Contrary to prevailing wisdom, there was no correlation between where he went and the rates of misdemeanours.

The researchers also wondered whether geography might play a role. They had anticipated that more the reindeer-friendly climates in Scotland and Wales would result in these regions being rewarded with more visits, but analysing distance as the Reindeer flies between each hospital and the North Pole showed no such relationship.

However, Father Christmas does appear to discriminate more in favour of the well off: living in a more deprived area meant that you were 1.23 times less likely to be called upon than someone in a more affluent area.

Park and his co-authors speculate that kids in more deprived areas have it worse because Santa is forced to sustain existing inequality, because he is "contractually not allowed to change anyone's socioeconomic status".

They do also acknowledge that possible confounders in their study are the quality of whisky left out for him, and availability of Christmas dinners, chimneys and free reindeer-friendly hospital car-parking spaces. None of these factors were assessed but should be considered in a follow up audit, the team propose...

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