More Than the Sum of Its Parts: Meta-Analysis and Its Potential to Discover Sources of Heterogeneity in Psychosomatic Medicine

Lineke M. Tak, Anna Meijer, Andiappan Manoharan, Peter de Jonge, Judith G. M. Rosmalen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Meta-analyses may contribute to more reliable knowledge about the existence of certain relations in the area of psychosomatic research. Surprisingly, the increasing popularity of meta-analysis is not reflected in the number of meta-analyses of observational studies published in Psychosomatic Medicine. This may be due to the specific difficulties that apply to meta-analyses of observational research. The aim of this paper is to provide a nontechnical overview of the principles of meta-analysis applied to observational research. We will highlight general principles of meta-analysis and discuss the major threats to its validity, with an emphasis on its specific merits and pitfalls for psychosomatic research, using several examples. We conclude that meta-analysis is a relatively simple technique, leaving little reason for not routinely applying it when performing a systematic review. An adequately conducted meta-analysis may not only provide a summary estimate of a certain association, but it has additional value in discovering relevant confounders, mediators, and moderators, as well as identifying areas of research that require more attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-265
Number of pages13
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Volume72
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2010

Keywords

  • meta-analysis
  • effect size
  • heterogeneity
  • meta-regression
  • mega-analysis
  • observational studies
  • POSTTRAUMATIC-STRESS-DISORDER
  • RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED-TRIALS
  • CHRONIC-FATIGUE-SYNDROME
  • PUBLICATION BIAS
  • CLINICAL-TRIALS
  • SYSTEMATIC REVIEWS
  • BINARY OUTCOMES
  • RISK-FACTOR
  • FILL METHOD
  • DEPRESSION

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