Structural equation modeling: A framework for ocular and other medical sciences research

Sharon L. Christ, David J. Lee, Byron L. Lam, D. Diane Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Structural equation modeling (SEM) is a modeling framework that encompasses many types of statistical models and can accommodate a variety of estimation and testing methods. SEM has been used primarily in social sciences but is increasingly used in epidemiology, public health, and the medical sciences. SEM provides many advantages for the analysis of survey and clinical data, including the ability to model latent constructs that may not be directly observable. Another major feature is simultaneous estimation of parameters in systems of equations that may include mediated relationships, correlated dependent variables, and in some instances feedback relationships. SEM allows for the specification of theoretically holistic models because multiple and varied relationships may be estimated together in the same model. SEM has recently expanded by adding generalized linear modeling capabilities that include the simultaneous estimation of parameters of different functional form for outcomes with different distributions in the same model. Therefore, mortality modeling and other relevant health outcomes may be evaluated. Random effects estimation using latent variables has been advanced in the SEM literature and software. In addition, SEM software has increased estimation options. Therefore, modern SEM is quite general and includes model types frequently used by health researchers, including generalized linear modeling, mixed effects linear modeling, and population average modeling. This article does not present any new information. It is meant as an introduction to SEM and its uses in ocular and other health research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalOphthalmic Epidemiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Generalized linear models
  • Latent variable
  • Mediation
  • Mortality modeling
  • Simultaneous equations
  • Structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Epidemiology


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