Log-binomial models: exploring failed convergence

Emerg Themes Epidemiol. 2013 Dec 13;10(1):14. doi: 10.1186/1742-7622-10-14.


Background: Relative risk is a summary metric that is commonly used in epidemiological investigations. Increasingly, epidemiologists are using log-binomial models to study the impact of a set of predictor variables on a single binary outcome, as they naturally offer relative risks. However, standard statistical software may report failed convergence when attempting to fit log-binomial models in certain settings. The methods that have been proposed in the literature for dealing with failed convergence use approximate solutions to avoid the issue. This research looks directly at the log-likelihood function for the simplest log-binomial model where failed convergence has been observed, a model with a single linear predictor with three levels. The possible causes of failed convergence are explored and potential solutions are presented for some cases.

Results: Among the principal causes is a failure of the fitting algorithm to converge despite the log-likelihood function having a single finite maximum. Despite these limitations, log-binomial models are a viable option for epidemiologists wishing to describe the relationship between a set of predictors and a binary outcome where relative risk is the desired summary measure.

Conclusions: Epidemiologists are encouraged to continue to use log-binomial models and advocate for improvements to the fitting algorithms to promote the widespread use of log-binomial models.