Extending the simple linear regression model to account for correlated responses: an introduction to generalized estimating equations and multi-level mixed modelling

Stat Med. 1998 Jun 15;17(11):1261-91. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0258(19980615)17:11<1261::aid-sim846>3.0.co;2-z.


Much of the research in epidemiology and clinical science is based upon longitudinal designs which involve repeated measurements of a variable of interest in each of a series of individuals. Such designs can be very powerful, both statistically and scientifically, because they enable one to study changes within individual subjects over time or under varied conditions. However, this power arises because the repeated measurements tend to be correlated with one another, and this must be taken into proper account at the time of analysis or misleading conclusions may result. Recent advances in statistical theory and in software development mean that studies based upon such designs can now be analysed more easily, in a valid yet flexible manner, using a variety of approaches which include the use of generalized estimating equations, and mixed models which incorporate random effects. This paper provides a particularly simple illustration of the use of these two approaches, taking as a practical example the analysis of a study which examined the response of portable peak expiratory flow meters to changes in true peak expiratory flow in 12 children with asthma. The paper takes the reader through the relevant practicalities of model fitting, interpretation and criticism and demonstrates that, in a simple case such as this, analyses based upon these model-based approaches produce reassuringly similar inferences to standard analyses based upon more conventional methods.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Spirometry