Propensity score methods are frequently used to estimate the effects of interventions using observational data. The propensity score was originally developed for use with binary exposures. The generalized propensity score (GPS) is an extension of the propensity score for use with quantitative or continuous exposures (e.g. pack-years of cigarettes smoked, dose of medication, or years of education). We describe how the GPS can be used to estimate the effect of continuous exposures on survival or time-to-event outcomes. To do so we modified the concept of the dose-response function for use with time-to-event outcomes. We used Monte Carlo simulations to examine the performance of different methods of using the GPS to estimate the effect of quantitative exposures on survival or time-to-event outcomes. We examined covariate adjustment using the GPS and weighting using weights based on the inverse of the GPS. The use of methods based on the GPS was compared with the use of conventional G-computation and weighted G-computation. Conventional G-computation resulted in estimates of the dose-response function that displayed the lowest bias and the lowest variability. Amongst the two GPS-based methods, covariate adjustment using the GPS tended to have the better performance. We illustrate the application of these methods by estimating the effect of average neighbourhood income on the probability of survival following hospitalization for an acute myocardial infarction.
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