Multilevel Conditional Autoregressive models for longitudinal and spatially referenced epidemiological data

by   Dany Djeudeu, et al.

The classical multilevel model fails to capture the proximity effect in epidemiological studies, where subjects are nested within geographical units. Multilevel Conditional Autoregressive models are alternatives to help explain the spatial effect better. They have been developed for cross-sectional studies but not for longitudinal studies so far. This paper has two goals. Firstly, it further develops the multilevel (growth) models for longitudinal data by adding existing area level random effect terms with CAR prior specification, whose structure is changing over time. We name these models MLM tCARs for longitudinal data. We compare the developed MLM tCARs to the classical multilevel growth model via simulation studies in common spatial data situations. The results indicate the better performance of the MLM tCARs, to retrieve the true regression coefficients and with better fit in general. Secondly, this paper provides a comprehensive decision tree for analysing data in epidemiological studies with spatially nested structure: we also consider the Multilevel Conditional Autoregressive models for cross-sectional studies (MLM CARs). We compare three models (for cross-sectional studies) via simulation studies: the classical multilevel model, the multilevel CAR model and the Restricted CAR model that accounts for spatial confounding. The MLM CARs, particularly the Restricted CAR show better results. We apply the models comparatively on the analysis of the association between greenness and depressive symptoms in the longitudinal Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study. The results show negative association between greenness and depression and a decreasing linear individual time trend for all models. We observe very weak spatial variation and moderate temporal autocorrelation.


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