Statistics corner: A guide to appropriate use of correlation coefficient in medical research

Malawi Med J. 2012 Sep;24(3):69-71.


Correlation is a statistical method used to assess a possible linear association between two continuous variables. It is simple both to calculate and to interpret. However, misuse of correlation is so common among researchers that some statisticians have wished that the method had never been devised at all. The aim of this article is to provide a guide to appropriate use of correlation in medical research and to highlight some misuse. Examples of the applications of the correlation coefficient have been provided using data from statistical simulations as well as real data. Rule of thumb for interpreting size of a correlation coefficient has been provided.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Research Design*
  • Statistics as Topic*