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Author Notes:

Correspondence: Maarten van Smeden, Albinusdreef 2, Leiden 2333 ZA, The Netherlands. E-mail: m.van_smeden@lumc.nl

Author Contributions: M.S. conceptualized the manuscript. T.L. and R.G. provided inputs and revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

We are most grateful for the comments received on our initial draft offered by Dr Katherine Ahrens, Dr Kathryn Snow, the Berlin Epidemiological Methods Colloquium journal club and the anonymous reviewers commissioned by the journal.

Disclosures: none declared.


Research Funding:

R.H.H.G. was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO-Vidi project 917.16.430).

T.L.L. was supported, in part, by R01LM013049 from the US National Library of Medicine.


  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
  • Measurement error
  • misclassification
  • bias
  • bias corrections
  • misconceptions
  • Exposure measurement error
  • Blood pressure
  • Dietary measurement error
  • Nondifferential misclassification
  • Multiple imputation
  • Always bias
  • Impact
  • Association
  • Regression
  • Variables

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


Journal Title:

International Journal of Epidemiology


Volume 49, Number 1


, Pages 338-347

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


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.

Copyright information:

© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/).
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