At this time of year, who best to ask about the secret of longevity than Santa Claus? At a cautious estimate Santa – or St Nicholas as he was originally known – is well over 1,500 years old and yet he still manages to get all the way around the world delivering presents in just one night. So what’s his secret?
In rare interview, Santa says one secret is keeping active. Managing all those elves and reindeer keeps his mind working, while the sheer scale of his task every years sets him plenty of problems to solve. That chimes with recent research by the University of Illinois, which found that people stay healthier for longer if they carry on working rather than retire.
Santa’s marriage to Mrs Claus is another secret because it stops him becoming stressed by his work. “I have to give her credit for making sure I take care of myself and keeping from obsessing too much over my work”. Certainly we’ve seen in a previous post that men and women do seem to live longer if they’re married.
But Santa’s real secret may well be even simpler: handing out presents. Giving time or money delivers health benefits such as strengthening the immune system. That warm feeling we get from generosity even has a name – ‘helper’s high‘ (suggesting there might be a benefit not just for Santa but for his elves as well) – and might lead to increased longevity: a 2003 study found that giving to others not only felt good but was associated with longer life. So giving out presents gets Santa a special, festive
Plausibility Rating: 8 out of 10 (which is a little generous but that’s rather the point).
Of course, not all Santa’s behaviours promote long life and there are those who say he could do more to look after his health. For example, it has been suggested that Santa should have an annual physical exam, get a flu shot and take precautions against the effects of extreme cold at the North Pole.
And the Santa Institute (I swear I’m not making this up) at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre has even suggested that Santa could do to lose a few a pounds for fear of developing type 2 diabetes.
All fair points in themselves.
But really, how can you argue health with a man who’s 1,735?
Happy Christmas everyone.
photo credit: Wanted: Reindeer, must fly via photopin (license)