Statistical issues on studies of mixed longitudinal design
Mixed longitudinal designs are important study designs for many areas of medical research. Mixed longitudinal studies have several advantages over cross-sectional or pure longitudinal studies, including shorter study completion time and ability to separate time and age effects, thus are an attractive choice. Statistical methodology used in general longitudinal studies has been rapidly developing within the last few decades. Common approaches for statistical modeling in studies with mixed longitudinal designs have been the linear mixed-effects model incorporating an age or time effect. The general linear mixed-effects model is considered an appropriate choice to analyze repeated measurements data in longitudinal studies. However, common use of linear mixed-effects model on mixed longitudinal studies often incorporates age as the only random-effect but fails to take into consideration the cohort effect in conducting statistical inferences on age-related trajectories of outcome measurements. We believe special attention should be paid to cohort effects when analyzing data in mixed longitudinal designs with multiple overlapping cohorts. Thus, this has become an important statistical issue to address.
This research aims to address statistical issues related to mixed longitudinal studies. The proposed study examined the existing statistical analysis methods for the mixed longitudinal designs and developed an alternative analytic method to incorporate effects from multiple overlapping cohorts as well as from different aged subjects. The proposed study used simulation to evaluate the performance of the proposed analytic method by comparing it with the commonly-used model. Finally, the study applied the proposed analytic method to the data collected by an existing study Project HeartBeat!, which had been evaluated using traditional analytic techniques. Project HeartBeat! is a longitudinal study of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in childhood and adolescence using a mixed longitudinal design. The proposed model was used to evaluate four blood lipids adjusting for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and endocrine hormones. The result of this dissertation suggest the proposed analytic model could be a more flexible and reliable choice than the traditional model in terms of fitting data to provide more accurate estimates in mixed longitudinal studies. Conceptually, the proposed model described in this study has useful features, including consideration of effects from multiple overlapping cohorts, and is an attractive approach for analyzing data in mixed longitudinal design studies.