Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2016 Feb 22;11(2):e0149940. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149940. eCollection 2016.

Power Analysis for Population-Based Longitudinal Studies Investigating Gene-Environment Interactions in Chronic Diseases: A Simulation Study.

Ma J1,2,3, Thabane L1,3,4,5, Beyene J1, Raina P1,2.

Author information

Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
McMaster University Evidence-based Practice Center, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Biostatistics Unit, St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Centre for Evaluation of Medicines, St Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Population Health Research Institute, Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


Conventional methods for sample size calculation for population-based longitudinal studies tend to overestimate the statistical power by overlooking important determinants of the required sample size, such as the measurement errors and unmeasured etiological determinants, etc. In contrast, a simulation-based sample size calculation, if designed properly, allows these determinants to be taken into account and offers flexibility in accommodating complex study design features. The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) is a Canada-wide, 20-year follow-up study of 30,000 people between the ages of 45 and 85 years, with in-depth information collected every 3 years. A simulation study, based on an illness-death model, was conducted to: (1) investigate the statistical power profile of the CLSA to detect the effect of environmental and genetic risk factors, and their interaction on age-related chronic diseases; and (2) explore the design alternatives and implementation strategies for increasing the statistical power of population-based longitudinal studies in general. The results showed that the statistical power to identify the effect of environmental and genetic risk exposures, and their interaction on a disease was boosted when: (1) the prevalence of the risk exposures increased; (2) the disease of interest is relatively common in the population; and (3) risk exposures were measured accurately. In addition, the frequency of data collection every three years in the CLSA led to a slightly lower statistical power compared to the design assuming that participants underwent health monitoring continuously. The CLSA had sufficient power to detect a small (1<hazard ratio (HR)≤1.5) or moderate effect (1.5< HR≤2.0) of the environmental risk exposure, as long as the risk exposure and the disease of interest were not rare. It had enough power to detect a moderate or large (2.0<HR≤3.0) effect of the genetic risk exposure when the prevalence of the risk exposure was not very low (≥0.1) and the disease of interest was not rare (such as diabetes and dementia). The CLSA had enough power to detect a large effect of the gene-environment interaction only when both risk exposures had relatively high prevalence (0.2) and the disease of interest was very common (such as diabetes). The minimum detectable hazard ratios (MDHR) of the CLSA for the environmental and genetic risk exposures obtained from this simulation study were larger than those calculated according to the conventional sample size calculation method. For example, the MDHR for the environmental risk exposure was 1.15 according to the conventional method if the prevalence of the risk exposure was 0.1 and the disease of interest was dementia. In contrast, the MDHR was 1.61 if the same exposure was measured every 3 years with a misclassification rate of 0.1 according to this simulation study. With a given sample size, higher statistical power could be achieved by increasing the measuring frequency in participants with high risk of declining health status or changing risk exposures, and by increasing measurement accuracy of diseases and risk exposures. A properly designed simulation-based sample size calculation is superior to conventional methods when rigorous sample size calculation is necessary.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center