Multilevel modeling versus cross-sectional analysis for assessing the longitudinal tracking of cardiovascular risk factors over time

Vanessa Xanthakis, Lisa M. Sullivan, Ramachandran S. Vasan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Correlated data are obtained in longitudinal epidemiological studies, where repeated measurements are taken on individuals or groups over time. Such longitudinal data are ideally analyzed using multilevel modeling approaches, which appropriately account for the correlations in repeated responses in the same individual. Commonly used regression models are inappropriate as they assume that measurements are independent. In this tutorial, we use multilevel modeling to demonstrate its use for analysis of correlated data obtained from serial examinations on individuals. We focus on cardiovascular epidemiological research where investigators are often interested in quantifying the relations between clinical risk factors and outcome measures (X and Y, respectively), where X and Y are measured repeatedly over time, for example, using serial observations on participants attending multiple examinations in a longitudinal cohort study. For instance, it may be of interest to evaluate the relations between serial measures of left ventricular mass (outcome) and of its potential determinants (i.e., body mass index and blood pressure), both of which are measured over time. In this tutorial, we describe the application of multilevel modeling to cardiovascular risk factors and outcome data (using serial echocardiographic data as an example of an outcome). We suggest an analytical approach that can be implemented to evaluate relations between any potential outcome of interest and risk factors, including assessment of random effects and nonlinear relations. We illustrate these steps using echocardiographic data from the Framingham Heart Study with SAS PROC MIXED.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5028-5038
Number of pages11
JournalStatistics in Medicine
Issue number28
StatePublished - Dec 10 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Cohort study
  • Multilevel modeling
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics and Probability


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