Inverse odds ratio-weighted estimation for causal mediation analysis


  • Eric J. Tchetgen Tchetgen

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Epidemiology, Harvard University, Boston, MA, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Biostatistics, Harvard University, Boston, MA, U.S.A.
    • Correspondence to: Eric J. Tchetgen Tchetgen, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, U.S.A.


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An important scientific goal of studies in the health and social sciences is increasingly to determine to what extent the total effect of a point exposure is mediated by an intermediate variable on the causal pathway between the exposure and the outcome. A causal framework has recently been proposed for mediation analysis, which gives rise to new definitions, formal identification results and novel estimators of direct and indirect effects. In the present paper, the author describes a new inverse odds ratio-weighted approach to estimate so-called natural direct and indirect effects. The approach, which uses as a weight the inverse of an estimate of the odds ratio function relating the exposure and the mediator, is universal in that it can be used to decompose total effects in a number of regression models commonly used in practice. Specifically, the approach may be used for effect decomposition in generalized linear models with a nonlinear link function, and in a number of other commonly used models such as the Cox proportional hazards regression for a survival outcome. The approach is simple and can be implemented in standard software provided a weight can be specified for each observation. An additional advantage of the method is that it easily incorporates multiple mediators of a categorical, discrete or continuous nature. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.