A distributional approach to obtain adjusted comparisons of proportions of a population at risk

Odile Sauzet, Jürgen Breckenkamp, Theda Borde, Silke Brenne, Matthias David, Oliver Razum, Janet L Peacock
Emerging Themes in Epidemiology 2016, 13: 8

BACKGROUND: Dichotomisation of continuous data has statistical drawbacks such as loss of power but may be useful in epidemiological research to define high risk individuals.

METHODS: We extend a methodology for the presentation of comparison of proportions derived from a comparison of means for a continuous outcome to reflect the relationship between a continuous outcome and covariates in a linear (mixed) model without losing statistical power. The so called "distributional method" is described and using perinatal data for illustration, results from the distributional method are compared to those of logistic regression and to quantile regression for three different outcomes.

RESULTS: Estimates obtained using the distributional method for the comparison of proportions are consistently more precise than those obtained using logistic regression. For one of the three outcomes the estimates obtained from the distributional method and from logistic regression disagreed highlighting that the relationships between outcome and covariate differ conceptually between the two models.

CONCLUSION: When an outcome follows the required condition of distribution shift between exposure groups, the results of a linear regression model can be followed by the corresponding comparison of proportions at risk. This dual approach provides more precise estimates than logistic regression thus avoiding the drawback of the usual dichotomisation of continuous outcomes.


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