Hyponatremia is the most common electrolyte abnormality encountered in clinical practice. The reported frequency of the disorder is determined by a number of factors, including the definition of hyponatremia, the frequency of testing, the healthcare setting, and the patient population. This review focuses on the incidence and prevalence of hyponatremia. In acute hospital care, particular attention is given to admission versus hospital-acquired hyponatremia. Although less well studied, the epidemiology of hyponatremia in the ambulatory-based setting and the geriatric/nursing home population is also summarized. Finally, the frequency of hyponatremia occurring in special clinical conditions--including congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, pneumonia, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome--as well as in marathon runners will be reviewed. Substantial additional work is still required to determine the true occurrence of hyponatremia in the various clinical settings. Beyond the phenomenologic value, advances in the epidemiology of hyponatremia should also provide insights in the prognostic implications as well as the preventive and management strategies of the disorder in various clinical settings.