The Occupational Health of Santa

Santa Claus appears to have been an older man since at least the 1930s, works long hours and traverses multiple time zones in the course of delivering presents to children in all parts of the world (1). For these reasons it should be acknowledged that unique occupational hazards exist for Santa Claus. 

Close examination of the working conditions of Santa Claus highlights a number of pertinent occupational health issues (1). There is no standardized requirement for Santa to have a medical check-up, other than pre-employment drug screening (1,2).

Equipment operation

Of note, Santa does not routinely travel with a copilot or radio operator. A recent study confirms that sleigh driving carries a high risk of injury (1,3). We recall one disturbing report of Santa’s sleigh crashing on a remote tropical island... In such an instance as an emergency crash-landing on a remote tropical island, it may be necessary to make use of locally available resources for medical care, for example coconut water for rehydration, which has even been used intravenously to good effect (1,4).

Work scheduling, cardiovascular health and travel related issues

Little is known about what Santa does for most of the year, but he likely has to be considered “unemployed” for the largest portion... Santa ought to be considered a shift worker who works a significant amount of seasonal overtime.

Dietary patterns and metabolic responses to food have previously been established to be disrupted by shift work, and increased snacking has been seen in night shift workers, who are furthermore hampered in their efforts to maintain a healthy exercise balance (1,5). Santa’s consumption of milk and cookies may exceed recommendations in most national nutritional guidelines (e.g., the Canada Food Guide (1,6).

One would expect Santa to suffer from significant jet lag due to the amount of travel required to meet his December 25th deadline each year.

It is unclear whether he relies on over the counter supplements (e.g., melatonin, which has recently been shown to be effective in shift workers (1,7).

Heat stress

Santa Claus, being acclimatized to the colder climate of extreme Northern latitudes, could also be expected to suffer from heat stress when delivering presents in warmer climates (e.g., Honolulu) (1).

As depicted in the advertisements of a certain soft drink manufacturer (1,8) he appears to have been an older man since at least the 1930s.

Mental health

Santa’s overall mental health may be adversely impacted by years of having to operate under government scrutiny. The North American Aerospace Defense Command has openly admitted that Santa’s December travels are tracked, in an annual tradition of government surveillance a-la “Big Brother” dating back to 1955 (1,9).

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Exercise and nutrition


1. The occupational health of Santa Claus. J Occup Med Toxicol. 2015; 10: 44.
2. Grills NJ, Halyday B. Santa Claus: a public health pariah? BMJ. 2009;339:b5261. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b5261.
3. Soligard T, Steffen K, Palmer-Green D, Aubry M, Grant ME, Meeuwisse W, et al. Sports injuries and illnesses in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49:441–7. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-094538.
4. Campbell-Falck D, Thomas T, Falck TM, Tutuo N, Clem K. The intravenous use of coconut water. Am J Emerg Med. 2000;18:108–11.
5. Atkinson G, Fullick S, Grindey C, Maclaren D, Waterhouse J. Exercise, energy balance and the shift worker. Sports Med. 2008;38:671–85.
6. Health Canada . Eating well with Canada’s food guide. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer; 2007.
7. Liira J, Verbeek J, Ruotsalainen J. Pharmacological interventions for sleepiness and sleep disturbances caused by shift work. JAMA. 2015;313:961–2.
8. Coca-Cola Company. 5 things you never knew about Santa Claus and Coca-Cola. 2012. Accessed 12 October 2015.
9. North American Aerospace Defense Command. Why we track Santa.