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How Do Noncausal Associations Arise? 

How Do Noncausal Associations Arise?
How Do Noncausal Associations Arise?

Katherine M. Keyes

and Sandro Galea

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date: 01 October 2020

Non-comparability between exposed and unexposed individuals can compromise causal inference from epidemiologic studies. This chapter guides readers through the four ways in which non-comparability commonly arises in epidemiologic studies: through random chance in the sampling process; because causes of health indicators tend to cluster; because of systematic differences between the exposed and unexposed in the selection and follow-up of the sample; and because of measurement error that is associated with both the exposure and the health indicator (including mistakes in recording an individual’s value on a variable of interest in a study). The chapter provides quantitative measures assessing the extent of non-comparability through these sources and also provides multiple examples and graphical illustrations demonstrating how non-comparability arises and can compromise epidemiologic research.

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