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Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Jan 1;179(1):4-11. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt228. Epub 2013 Oct 31.

Assessing the possible direct effect of birth weight on childhood blood pressure: a sensitivity analysis.


To estimate the possible direct effect of birth weight on blood pressure, it is conventional to condition on the mediator, current weight. Such conditioning can induce bias. Our aim was to assess the potential biasing effect of U, an unmeasured common cause of current weight and blood pressure, on the estimate of the controlled direct effect of birth weight on blood pressure, with the help of sensitivity analyses. We used data from a school-based study conducted in Switzerland in 2005-2006 (n = 3,762; mean age = 12.3 years). A small negative association was observed between birth weight and systolic blood pressure (linear regression coefficient βbw = -0.3 mmHg/kg, 95% confidence interval: -0.9, 0.3). The association was strengthened upon adjustment for current weight (βbw|C = -1.5 mmHg/kg, 95% confidence interval: -2.1, -0.9). Sensitivity analyses revealed that the negative conditional association was explained by U only if U was relatively strongly associated with blood pressure and if there was a large difference in the prevalence of U between low-birth weight and normal-birth weight children. This weakens the hypothesis that the negative relationship between birth weight and blood pressure arises only from collider-stratification bias induced by conditioning on current weight.


birth weight; blood pressure; collider-stratification bias; direct effects; sensitivity analyses

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