Credibility of subgroup analyses by socioeconomic status in public health intervention evaluations: an underappreciated problem?

Greig Inglis, Daryll Archibald, Lawrence Doi, Yvonne Laird, Stephen Malden, Louise Marryat, John McAteer, Jan Pringle, John Frank*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


There is increasing interest amongst researchers and policy makers in identifying the effect of public health interventions on health inequalities by socioeconomic status (SES). This issue is typically addressed in evaluation studies through subgroup analyses, where researchers test whether the effect of an intervention differs according to the socioeconomic status of participants. The credibility of such analyses is therefore crucial when making judgements about how an intervention is likely to affect health inequalities, although this issue appears to be rarely considered within public health. The aim of this study was therefore to assess the credibility of subgroup analyses in published evaluations of public health interventions. An established set of 10 credibility criteria for subgroup analyses was applied to a purposively sampled set of 21 evaluation studies, the majority of which focussed on healthy eating interventions, which reported differential intervention effects by SES. While the majority of these studies were found to be otherwise of relatively high quality methodologically, only 8 of the 21 studies met at least 6 of the 10 credibility criteria for subgroup analysis. These findings suggest that the credibility of subgroup analyses conducted within evaluations of public health interventions’ impact on health inequalities may be an underappreciated problem.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-251
Number of pages7
JournalSSM - Population Health
Early online date19 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes



  • Equity and public health interventions
  • Health inequalities
  • Health inequities
  • Policy impact by socioeconomic status

Cite this