Longitudinal Mediation Analysis Using Natural Effect Models

12/03/2019 ∙ by Murthy N Mittinty, et al. ∙ 0

Mediation analysis is concerned with the decomposition of the total effect of an exposure on an outcome into the indirect effect through a given mediator, and the remaining direct effect. This is ideally done using longitudinal measurements of the mediator, as these capture the mediator process more finely. However, longitudinal measurements pose challenges for mediation analysis. This is because the mediators and outcomes measured at a given time-point can act as confounders for the association between mediators and outcomes at a later time-point; these confounders are themselves affected by the prior exposure and outcome. Such post-treatment confounding cannot be dealt with using standard methods (e.g. generalized estimating equations). Analysis is further complicated by the need for so-called cross-world counterfactuals to decompose the total effect. This article addresses these challenges. In particular, we introduce so-called natural effect models, which parameterize the direct and indirect effect of a baseline exposure w.r.t. a longitudinal mediator and outcome. These can be viewed as a generalization of marginal structural models to enable effect decomposition. We introduce inverse probability weighting techniques for fitting these models, adjusting for (measured) time-varying confounding of the mediator-outcome association. Application of this methodology uses data from the Millennium Cohort Study, UK.

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