Children who spend Christmas in hospital are more likely to get a visit from Santa if they live in a wealthy area, a new study found.
Contrary to popular belief, Saint Nick did not differentiate between naughty and nice children but instead “deeper socioeconomic factors are at play”, researchers said.
Experts from the UK and the US surveyed every British hospital with a paediatric ward to find out if Santa had visited during Christmas 2015.
The study, published in the Christmas issue of The British Medical Journal, found that Santa Claus visited nine in ten of the 186 paediatric hospital wards in the UK.
This included 89 per cent of children’s wards in England, 100 per cent in Northern Ireland, 93 per cent in Scotland, and 92 per cent in Wales.
The researchers found that the odds of Father Christmas not visiting a hospital ward were significantly higher for paediatric wards in areas of higher socioeconomic deprivation.
But they found no correlation between rates of absenteeism from primary school, conviction rates in young people in the area or the distance from the hospital to the North Pole.
“It has long been thought that Santa Claus gives presents to nice but not naughty children,” the authors wrote.
“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.”
They added: “Undoubtedly deeper socioeconomic factors are at play, even impacting Santa Claus’s abilities to reach out to every child. 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.”