During the night of February 27 and the early morning of February 28, 2010, 15 coastal municipalities situated in two French departments, Vendée and Charente-Maritime, were violently stricken by a severe windstorm named “Xynthia.” This storm caused the death of 12 individuals in Charente-Maritime and 29 people in Vendée. Houses, agricultural fields, and shellfish companies were severely flooded with seawater. Several thousand people temporarily had to leave their homes. The objective of this study was to estimate the short-term mental health impact of Xynthia, in terms of psychotropic drug delivery, on the resident population of the 15 coastal municipalities severely hit by the flooding.
The French national health insurance database was used to calculate a daily number of new psychotropic treatments from September 1, 2008 through December 24, 2010. New treatments were calculated for each of the following European Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Association (EphMRA) classes: tranquilizers (N05C), hypnotics (N05B), and antidepressants (N06A). A period of three weeks following the storm was defined as the exposure period. A generalized additive model with a Poisson distribution that allows for over-dispersion was used to analyze the correlation between the Xynthia variable and the number of new psychotropic treatments.
With a relative risk (RR) of 1.54 (95% CI, 1.39-1.62) corresponding to an estimate of 409 new deliveries of psychotropic drugs during the three weeks following the storm, this study confirms the importance of the psychological impact of Xynthia. This impact is seen on all three classes of psychotropic drugs studied. The impact is greater for tranquilizers (RR of 1.78; 95% CI, 1.59-1.89) than for hypnotics (RR of 1.53; 95% CI, 1.31-1.67) and antidepressants (RR of 1.26; 95% CI, 1.06-1.40). The RR was higher for females than for males.
This study shows the importance of the psychological impact of the storm as observed clinically by health workers who intervened in the field during the aftermath of Xynthia. It confirms that administrative databases can be used to show a health impact of a disaster even at a local level. This is one more step in the direction of a comprehensive strategy of collecting information to allow the assessment of the health impact of an extreme event, the detection of vulnerable populations, and the orientation of the short-, mid- and long-term public health response.
MotreffY, PirardP, GoriaS, LabradorB, Gourier-FréryC, NicolauJ, Le TertreA, Chan-CheeC. Increase in Psychotropic Drug Deliveries after the Xynthia Storm, France, 2010. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2013;28(5):1-6.