Patterns of intra-cluster correlation from primary care research to inform study design and analysis

G Adams, M C Gulliford, O C Ukoumunne, S Eldridge, S Chinn, M J Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

418 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To provide information concerning the magnitude of the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) for cluster-based studies set in primary care. Study Design and Setting: Reanalysis of data from 31 cluster-based studies in primary care to estimate intraclass correlation coefficients from random effects models using maximum likelihood estimation. Results: ICCs were estimated for 1,039 variables. The median ICC was 0.010 (interquartile range [IQR] 0 to 0.032, range 0 to 0.840). After adjusting for individual- and cluster-level characteristics, the median ICC was 0.005 (IQR 0 to 0.021). A given measure showed widely varying ICC estimates in different datasets. In six datasets, the ICCs for SF-36 physical functioning scale ranged from 0.001 to 0.055 and for SF-36 general health from 0 to 0.072. In four datasets, the ICC for systolic blood pressure ranged from 0 to 0.052 and for diastolic blood pressure from 0 to 0.108. Conclusion: The precise magnitude of between-cluster variation for a given measure can rarely be estimated in advance. Studies should be designed with reference to the overall distribution of ICCs and with attention to features that increase efficiency. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785 - 794
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2004


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