Journal of Epidemiology
Online ISSN : 1349-9092
Print ISSN : 0917-5040
ISSN-L : 0917-5040
Original Article
Meta-analysis Using Flexible Random-effects Distribution Models
Hisashi NomaKengo NagashimaShogo KatoSatoshi TeramukaiToshi A. Furukawa
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Supplementary material

2022 Volume 32 Issue 10 Pages 441-448


Background: In meta-analysis, the normal distribution assumption has been adopted in most systematic reviews of random-effects distribution models due to its computational and conceptual simplicity. However, this restrictive model assumption is possibly unsuitable and might have serious influences in practices.

Methods: We provide two examples of real-world evidence that clearly show that the normal distribution assumption is explicitly unsuitable. We propose new random-effects meta-analysis methods using five flexible random-effects distribution models that can flexibly regulate skewness, kurtosis and tailweight: skew normal distribution, skew t-distribution, asymmetric Subbotin distribution, Jones–Faddy distribution, and sinh–arcsinh distribution. We also developed a statistical package, flexmeta, that can easily perform these methods.

Results: Using the flexible random-effects distribution models, the results of the two meta-analyses were markedly altered, potentially influencing the overall conclusions of these systematic reviews.

Conclusion: The restrictive normal distribution assumption in the random-effects model can yield misleading conclusions. The proposed flexible methods can provide more precise conclusions in systematic reviews.

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© 2021 Hisashi Noma et al.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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