Dependent Variable

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The presumed effect or outcome being measured, so called because it may depend on changes in the independent variable. In public health, health educators may assess the degree to which a risk factor (say, obesity) affects a health outcome (heart disease). The dependent variable (heart disease) varies with the independent variable (obesity) but may or may not be caused by it. The dependent variable is the variable of greatest importance to an investigator in a given study. See Independent Variable.

Examples: A researcher looks at the effects of participation in a weight reduction education program (independent variable) to see if there was a change or lowering of weight (dependent variable) in participants (Sarvela & McDermott, 1993). If you are studying the prevalence of heart disease among women aged fifty years and older, the presence of the disease is the dependent variable and age and gender are independent variables.

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