Identification and estimation of survivor average causal effects

Stat Med. 2014 Sep 20;33(21):3601-28. doi: 10.1002/sim.6181. Epub 2014 May 29.

Abstract

In longitudinal studies, outcomes ascertained at follow-up are typically undefined for individuals who die prior to the follow-up visit. In such settings, outcomes are said to be truncated by death and inference about the effects of a point treatment or exposure, restricted to individuals alive at the follow-up visit, could be biased even if as in experimental studies, treatment assignment were randomized. To account for truncation by death, the survivor average causal effect (SACE) defines the effect of treatment on the outcome for the subset of individuals who would have survived regardless of exposure status. In this paper, the author nonparametrically identifies SACE by leveraging post-exposure longitudinal correlates of survival and outcome that may also mediate the exposure effects on survival and outcome. Nonparametric identification is achieved by supposing that the longitudinal data arise from a certain nonparametric structural equations model and by making the monotonicity assumption that the effect of exposure on survival agrees in its direction across individuals. A novel weighted analysis involving a consistent estimate of the survival process is shown to produce consistent estimates of SACE. A data illustration is given, and the methods are extended to the context of time-varying exposures. We discuss a sensitivity analysis framework that relaxes assumptions about independent errors in the nonparametric structural equations model and may be used to assess the extent to which inference may be altered by a violation of key identifying assumptions.

Keywords: double robust; principal stratification; sensitivity analysis; truncation by death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Cognition
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Smoking
  • Survivors*
  • Treatment Outcome*