Introduction - According to several authors, water intoxication can lead to
irreversible brain damage and could be the cause of nearly a fifth of the
deaths of schizophrenic patients below the age of 53 years. The aim of our
study was first to determine the prevalence of polydipsia and water intoxic
ation in a population of psychiatric inpatients of a well-defined French ge
ographic area (the Somme), and secondly to determine the clinical and socio
-demographic factors associated with this disorder.
Method - A cross-sectional survey was done on the 450 psychiatric beds whos
e catchment area had a total population of 559,429 inhabitants. Using staff
reports and patients' charts, the drinking habits of 353 psychiatric inpat
ients hospitalised during the survey in the 450 psychiatric beds of this ar
ea were examined.
Results - Thirty-eight patients (10.76%; 95% confidence interval: 7.53-13.9
9%) among the 353 inpatients were polydipsic. About one-third of these pati
ents were at risk of water intoxication. Polydipsia appeared to be signific
antly associated with male gender, smoking, celibacy and chronicity. The po
lydipsic patients presented also a high prevalence of schizophrenia, mental
retardation, pervasive developmental disorders and high frequency of somat
ic disorders. (C) 2000 Editions scientifiques et medicales Elsevier SAS.