Ordinal regression models for epidemiologic data

Am J Epidemiol. 1989 Jan;129(1):191-204. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a115109.


Health status is often measured in epidemiologic studies on an ordinal scale, but data of this type are generally reduced for analysis to a single dichotomy. Several statistical models have been developed to make full use of information in ordinal response data, but have not been much used in analyzing epidemiologic studies. The authors discuss two of these statistical models--the cumulative odds model and the continuation ratio model. They may be interpreted in terms of odds ratios, can account for confounding variables, have clear and testable assumptions, and have parameters that may be estimated and hypotheses that may be tested using available statistical packages. However, calculations of asymptotic relative efficiency and results of simulations showed that simple logistic regression applied to dichotomized responses can in some realistic situations have more than 75% of the efficiency of ordinal regression models, but only if the ordinal scale is collapsed into a dichotomy close to the optimal point. The application of the proposed models to data from a study of chest x-rays of workers exposed to mineral fibers confirmed that they are easy to use and interpret, but gave results quite similar to those obtained using simple logistic regression after dichotomizing outcome in the conventional way.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos, Amphibole*
  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / etiology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Silicic Acid / adverse effects
  • Statistics as Topic*


  • Asbestos, Amphibole
  • Silicic Acid
  • tremolite