Statistics in Medicine

Multiple imputation for body mass index: lessons from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health

Journal Article

Abstract

In large epidemiological studies missing data can be a problem, especially if information is sought on a sensitive topic or when a composite measure is calculated from several variables each affected by missing values. Multiple imputation is the method of choice for ‘filling in’ missing data based on associations among variables. Using an example about body mass index from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, we identify a subset of variables that are particularly useful for imputing values for the target variables. Then we illustrate two uses of multiple imputation. The first is to examine and correct for bias when data are not missing completely at random. The second is to impute missing values for an important covariate; in this case omission from the imputation process of variables to be used in the analysis may introduce bias. We conclude with several recommendations for handling issues of missing data. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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