january 2024

The selection of statistical models for reporting count outcomes and intervention effects in brief alcohol intervention trials: A review and recommendations

Understanding the efficacy and relative effectiveness of a brief alcohol intervention (BAI) relies on obtaining a credible intervention effect estimate. Outcomes in BAI trials are often count variables, such as the number of drinks consumed, which may be overdispersed (i.e., greater variability than expected based on a given model) and zero-inflated (i.e., greater probability of zeros than expected based on a given model). Ignoring such distribution characteristics can lead to biased estimates and invalid statistical conclusions. In this critical review, we identified and reviewed 64 articles that reported count outcomes from a systematic review of BAI trials for adolescents and young adults from 2013 to 2018. Given many statistical models to choose from when analyzing count outcomes, we reviewed the models used and reporting practices in the BAI trial literature. A majority (61.3%) of analyses with count outcomes used linear models despite violations of normality assumptions; 75.6% of outcome variables demonstrated clear overdispersion. We provide an overview of available count models (Poisson, negative binomial, zero-inflated or hurdle, and marginalized zero-inflated Poisson regression) and formulate practical guidelines for reporting outcomes of BAIs. We provide a visual step-by-step decision guide for selecting appropriate statistical models and reporting results for count outcomes. We list accessible resources to help researchers select an appropriate model with which to analyze their data. Recent advances in count distribution-based models hold promise for evaluating count outcomes to gauge the efficacy and effectiveness of BAIs and identify critical covariates in alcohol epidemiologic research. We recommend that researchers report the distributional properties of count outcomes, such as the proportion of zero counts, and select an appropriate statistical analysis for count outcomes using the provided decision tree. By following these recommendations, future research may yield more accurate, transparent, and reproducible results.

Additional Info

  • Authors

    Tan L.; Luningham J. M.; Huh D.; Zhou Z.; Tanner-Smith E. E.; Baldwin S. A.; Mun E. Y.
  • Issue

    Periodical: Alcohol Clin Exp Res (Hoboken) - Volume: 48 - Number: 1 - Edition: 20231206
  • Published Date

    january 2024