Bed Sharing, SIDS Research, and the Concept of Confounding: A Review for Public Health Nurses

Public Health Nurs. 2015 Nov-Dec;32(6):731-7. doi: 10.1111/phn.12200. Epub 2015 May 4.


Confounding is an important concept for public health nurses (PHNs) to understand when considering the results of epidemiological research. The term confounding is derived from Latin, confundere, which means to "mix-up" or "mix together". Epidemiologists attempt to derive a cause and effect relationship between two variables traditionally known as the exposure and disease (e.g., smoking and lung cancer). Confounding occurs when a third factor, known as a confounder, leads to an over- or underestimate of the magnitude of the association between the exposure and disease. An understanding of confounding will facilitate critical appraisal of epidemiological research findings. This knowledge will enable PHNs to strengthen their evidence-based practice and better prepare them for policy development and implementation. In recent years, researchers and clinicians have examined the relationship between bed sharing and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The discussion regarding the risk of bed sharing and SIDS provides ample opportunity to discuss the various aspects of confounding. The purpose of this article is to use the bed sharing and SIDS literature to assist PHNs to understand confounding and to apply this knowledge when appraising epidemiological research. In addition, strategies that are used to control confounding are discussed.

Keywords: bed sharing; confounding; epidemiological research; evidence-based; nursing practice; public health nursing; sudden infant death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beds*
  • Comprehension
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Nurses, Public Health / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sudden Infant Death / epidemiology*