Empirical comparisons of proportional hazards, poisson, and logistic regression modeling of occupational cohort data

Am J Ind Med. 1998 Jan;33(1):33-47. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199801)33:1<33::aid-ajim5>3.0.co;2-x.


This research was conducted to examine the effect of model choice on the epidemiologic interpretation of occupational cohort data. Three multiplicative models commonly employed in the analysis of occupational cohort studies--proportional hazards. Poisson, and logistic regression--were used to analyze data from an historical cohort study of workers exposed to formaldehyde. Samples were taken from this dataset to create a number of predetermined scenarios for comparing the models, varying study size, outcome frequency, strength of risk factors, and follow-up length. The Poisson and proportional hazards models yielded nearly identical relative risk estimates and confidence intervals in all situations except when confounding by age could not be closely controlled in the Poisson analysis. Logistic regression findings were more variable, with risk estimates differing most from the proportional hazards results when there was a common outcome or strong relative risk. The logistic model also provided less precise estimates than the other two. Thus, although logistic was the easiest model to implement, it should be used only in occupational cohort studies when the outcome is rare (5% or less), and the relative risk is less than approximately 2. Even then, the proportional hazards and Poisson models are better choices. Selecting between these two can be based on convenience in most circumstances.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Formaldehyde / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Poisson Distribution*
  • Proportional Hazards Models*


  • Formaldehyde