Statistical issues in life course epidemiology.

De Stavola, BL; Nitsch, D; Dos Santos Silva, I; McCormack, V; Hardy, R; Mann, V; Cole, TJ; Morton, S; Leon, DA; (2006) Statistical issues in life course epidemiology. American journal of epidemiology, 163 (1). pp. 84-96. ISSN 0002-9262 DOI:

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There is growing recognition that the risk of many diseases in later life, such as type 2 diabetes or breast cancer, is affected by adult as well as early-life variables, including those operating prior to conception and during the prenatal period. Most of these risk factors are correlated because of common biologic and/or social pathways, while some are intrinsically ordered over time. The study of how they jointly influence later ("distal") disease outcomes is referred to as life course epidemiology. This area of research raises several issues relevant to the current debate on causal inference in epidemiology. The authors give a brief overview of the main analytical and practical problems and consider a range of modeling approaches, their differences determined by the degree with which associations present (or presumed) among the correlated explanatory variables are explicitly acknowledged. Standard multiple regression (i.e., conditional) models are compared with joint models where more than one outcome is specified. Issues arising from measurement error and missing data are addressed. Examples from two cohorts in the United Kingdom are used to illustrate alternative modeling strategies. The authors conclude that more than one analytical approach should be adopted to gain more insight into the underlying mechanisms.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Non-Communicable Disease Epidemiology
Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Medical Statistics
Research Centre: Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
PubMed ID: 16306313
Web of Science ID: 234223200010


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