Advanced Statistics: Linear Regression, Part II: Multiple Linear Regression


  • Keith A. Marill MD

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
      *Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Clinics 115, Boston, MA 02114. Fax: 617-724-0917; e-mail:
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*Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Clinics 115, Boston, MA 02114. Fax: 617-724-0917; e-mail:


The applications of simple linear regression in medical research are limited, because in most situations, there are multiple relevant predictor variables. Univariate statistical techniques such as simple linear regression use a single predictor variable, and they often may be mathematically correct but clinically misleading. Multiple linear regression is a mathematical technique used to model the relationship between multiple independent predictor variables and a single dependent outcome variable. It is used in medical research to model observational data, as well as in diagnostic and therapeutic studies in which the outcome is dependent on more than one factor. Although the technique generally is limited to data that can be expressed with a linear function, it benefits from a well-developed mathematical framework that yields unique solutions and exact confidence intervals for regression coefficients. Building on Part I of this series, this article acquaints the reader with some of the important concepts in multiple regression analysis. These include multicollinearity, interaction effects, and an expansion of the discussion of inference testing, leverage, and variable transformations to multivariate models. Examples from the first article in this series are expanded on using a primarily graphic, rather than mathematical, approach. The importance of the relationships among the predictor variables and the dependence of the multivariate model coefficients on the choice of these variables are stressed. Finally, concepts in regression model building are discussed.