Confounding and Statistical Significance of Indirect Effects: Childhood Adversity, Education, Smoking, and Anxious and Depressive Symptomatology
AuthorSheikh, Mashhood Ahmed
The life course perspective, the risky families model, and stress-and-coping models provide the rationale for assessing the role of smoking as a mediator in the association between childhood adversity and anxious and depressive symptomatology (ADS) in adulthood. However, no previous study has assessed the independent mediating role of smoking in the association between childhood adversity and ADS in adulthood. Moreover, the importance of mediator-response confounding variables has rarely been demonstrated empirically in social and psychiatric epidemiology. The aim of this paper was to (i) assess the mediating role of smoking in adulthood in the association between childhood adversity and ADS in adulthood, and (ii) assess the change in estimates due to different mediator-response confounding factors (education, alcohol intake, and social support). The present analysis used data collected from 1994 to 2008 within the framework of the Tromsø Study (N = 4,530), a representative prospective cohort study of men and women. Seven childhood adversities (low mother's education, low father's education, low financial conditions, exposure to passive smoke, psychological abuse, physical abuse, and substance abuse distress) were used to create a childhood adversity score. Smoking status was measured at a mean age of 54.7 years (Tromsø IV), and ADS in adulthood was measured at a mean age of 61.7 years (Tromsø V). Mediation analysis was used to assess the indirect effect and the proportion of mediated effect (%) of childhood adversity on ADS in adulthood via smoking in adulthood. The test-retest reliability of smoking was good (Kappa: 0.67, 95% CI: 0.63; 0.71) in this sample. Childhood adversity was associated with a 10% increased risk of smoking in adulthood (Relative risk: 1.10, 95% CI: 1.03; 1.18), and both childhood adversity and smoking in adulthood were associated with greater levels of ADS in adulthood (p < 0.001). Smoking in adulthood did not significantly mediate the association between childhood adversity and ADS in adulthood. However, when education was excluded as a mediator-response confounding variable, the indirect effect of childhood adversity on ADS in adulthood was statistically significant (p < 0.05). This study shows that a careful inclusion of potential confounding variables is important when assessing mediation.
Source at https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01317