Multiple Imputation of Composite Covariates in Survival Studies

Clements, Lily; Kimber, Alan C. and Biedermann, Stefanie (2022). Multiple Imputation of Composite Covariates in Survival Studies. Stats, 5(2) pp. 358–370.



Missing covariate values are a common problem in survival studies, and the method of choice when handling such incomplete data is often multiple imputation. However, it is not obvious how this can be used most effectively when an incomplete covariate is a function of other covariates. For example, body mass index (BMI) is the ratio of weight and height-squared. In this situation, the following question arises: Should a composite covariate such as BMI be imputed directly, or is it advantageous to impute its constituents, weight and height, first and to construct BMI afterwards? We address this question through a carefully designed simulation study that compares various approaches to multiple imputation of composite covariates in a survival context. We discuss advantages and limitations of these approaches for various types of missingness and imputation models. Our results are a first step towards providing much needed guidance to practitioners for analysing their incomplete survival data effectively.

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