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Int J Epidemiol. 2019 Dec 10. pii: dyz251. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyz251. [Epub ahead of print]

Reflection on modern methods: five myths about measurement error in epidemiological research.

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Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Department of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Department of Biomedical Data Sciences, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Epidemiologists are often confronted with datasets to analyse which contain measurement error due to, for instance, mistaken data entries, inaccurate recordings and measurement instrument or procedural errors. If the effect of measurement error is misjudged, the data analyses are hampered and the validity of the study's inferences may be affected. In this paper, we describe five myths that contribute to misjudgments about measurement error, regarding expected structure, impact and solutions to mitigate the problems resulting from mismeasurements. The aim is to clarify these measurement error misconceptions. We show that the influence of measurement error in an epidemiological data analysis can play out in ways that go beyond simple heuristics, such as heuristics about whether or not to expect attenuation of the effect estimates. Whereas we encourage epidemiologists to deliberate about the structure and potential impact of measurement error in their analyses, we also recommend exercising restraint when making claims about the magnitude or even direction of effect of measurement error if not accompanied by statistical measurement error corrections or quantitative bias analysis. Suggestions for alleviating the problems or investigating the structure and magnitude of measurement error are given.


Measurement error; bias; bias corrections; misclassification; misconceptions


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