Comparison of methods for the analysis of relatively simple mediation models

Judith J.M. Rijnhart*, Jos W.R. Twisk, Mai J.M. Chinapaw, Michiel R. de Boer, Martijn W. Heymans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background/aims Statistical mediation analysis is an often used method in trials, to unravel the pathways underlying the effect of an intervention on a particular outcome variable. Throughout the years, several methods have been proposed, such as ordinary least square (OLS) regression, structural equation modeling (SEM), and the potential outcomes framework. Most applied researchers do not know that these methods are mathematically equivalent when applied to mediation models with a continuous mediator and outcome variable. Therefore, the aim of this paper was to demonstrate the similarities between OLS regression, SEM, and the potential outcomes framework in three mediation models: 1) a crude model, 2) a confounder-adjusted model, and 3) a model with an interaction term for exposure-mediator interaction. Methods Secondary data analysis of a randomized controlled trial that included 546 schoolchildren. In our data example, the mediator and outcome variable were both continuous. We compared the estimates of the total, direct and indirect effects, proportion mediated, and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the indirect effect across OLS regression, SEM, and the potential outcomes framework. Results OLS regression, SEM, and the potential outcomes framework yielded the same effect estimates in the crude mediation model, the confounder-adjusted mediation model, and the mediation model with an interaction term for exposure-mediator interaction. Conclusions Since OLS regression, SEM, and the potential outcomes framework yield the same results in three mediation models with a continuous mediator and outcome variable, researchers can continue using the method that is most convenient to them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-135
Number of pages6
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials Communications
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017

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