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Poisson regression analysis of ungrouped data


Background: Poisson regression is routinely used for analysis of epidemiological data from studies of large occupational cohorts. It is typically implemented as a grouped method of data analysis in which all exposure and covariate information is categorised and person-time and events are tabulated.

Aims: To describe an alternative approach to Poisson regression analysis using single units of person-time without grouping.

Methods: Data for simulated and empirical cohorts were analysed by Poisson regression. In analyses of simulated data, effect estimates derived via Poisson regression without grouping were compared to those obtained under proportional hazards regression. Analyses of empirical data for a cohort of 138 900 electrical workers were used to illustrate how the ungrouped approach may be applied in analyses of actual occupational cohorts.

Results: Using simulated data, Poisson regression analyses of ungrouped person-time data yield results equivalent to those obtained via proportional hazards regression: the results of both methods gave unbiased estimates of the “true” association specified for the simulation. Analyses of empirical data confirm that grouped and ungrouped analyses provide identical results when the same models are specified. However, bias may arise when exposure-response trends are estimated via Poisson regression analyses in which exposure scores, such as category means or midpoints, are assigned to grouped data.

Conclusions: Poisson regression analysis of ungrouped person-time data is a useful tool that can avoid bias associated with categorising exposure data and assigning exposure scores, and facilitate direct assessment of the consequences of exposure categorisation and score assignment on regression results.

  • regression models
  • cohort studies
  • statistical methods

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