A novel method for evaluating an interaction effect of correlated continuous covariates in a linear model

Shang-Ying Liang, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Interaction effect is an important scientific interest for many areas of research. Common approach for investigating the interaction effect of two continuous covariates on a response variable is through a cross-product term in multiple linear regression. In epidemiological studies, the two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) type of method has also been utilized to examine the interaction effect by replacing the continuous covariates with their discretized levels. However, the implications of model assumptions of either approach have not been examined and the statistical validation has only focused on the general method, not specifically for the interaction effect. In this dissertation, we investigated the validity of both approaches based on the mathematical assumptions for non-skewed data. We showed that linear regression may not be an appropriate model when the interaction effect exists because it implies a highly skewed distribution for the response variable. We also showed that the normality and constant variance assumptions required by ANOVA are not satisfied in the model where the continuous covariates are replaced with their discretized levels. Therefore, naïve application of ANOVA method may lead to an incorrect conclusion. Given the problems identified above, we proposed a novel method modifying from the traditional ANOVA approach to rigorously evaluate the interaction effect. The analytical expression of the interaction effect was derived based on the conditional distribution of the response variable given the discretized continuous covariates. A testing procedure that combines the p-values from each level of the discretized covariates was developed to test the overall significance of the interaction effect. According to the simulation study, the proposed method is more powerful then the least squares regression and the ANOVA method in detecting the interaction effect when data comes from a trivariate normal distribution. The proposed method was applied to a dataset from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) stroke trial, and baseline age-by-weight interaction effect was found significant in predicting the change from baseline in NIHSS at Month-3 among patients received t-PA therapy.

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Recommended Citation

Liang, Shang-Ying, "A novel method for evaluating an interaction effect of correlated continuous covariates in a linear model" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3433357.