Parametric and semiparametric approaches to testing for seasonal trend in serial count data

Biostatistics. 2002 Jun;3(2):289-98. doi: 10.1093/biostatistics/3.2.289.


We present two tests for seasonal trend in monthly incidence data. The first approach uses a penalized likelihood to choose the number of harmonic terms to include in a parametric harmonic model (which includes time trends and autogression as well as seasonal harmonic terms) and then tests for seasonality using a parametric bootstrap test. The second approach uses a semiparametric regression model to test for seasonal trend. In the semiparametric model, the seasonal pattern is modeled nonparametrically, parametric terms are included for autoregressive effects and a linear time trend, and a parametric bootstrap test is used to test for seasonality. For both procedures, a null distribution is generated under a null Poisson model with time trends and autoregression parameters. We apply the methods to skin melanoma incidence rates collected by the surveillance, epidemiology, and end results (SEER) program of the National Cancer Institute, and perform simulation studies to evaluate the type I error rate and power for the two procedures. These simulations suggest that both procedures are alpha-level procedures. In addition, the harmonic model/bootstrap test had similar or larger power than the semiparametric model/bootstrap test for a wide range of alternatives, and the harmonic model/bootstrap test is much easier to implement. Thus, we recommend the harmonic model/bootstrap test for the analysis of seasonal incidence data.