## 6.2 Interpretation of the logistic regression coefficients

How do we interpret the logistic regression coefficients? First, we need to get into some math. In the end, we will use R to do all the computations for us; however, it is important to see the math to understand how to interpret a logistic regression model.

If \(p\) is the probability of an event, then \(p/(1-p)\) is the “odds” of the event, the ratio of how likely the event is to occur to how likely it is to not occur. The left-hand side of the logistic regression equation \(\ln{(p/(1-p))}\) is the natural logarithm of the odds, also known as the “log-odds” or “logit”. To convert log-odds to odds, use the inverse of the natural logarithm which is the exponential function \(e^x\). To convert log-odds to a probability, use the inverse logit function \(e^x / (1 + e^x)\).

**Intercept**

Plugging \(X = 0\) into Equation (6.1), we find that the intercept \(\beta_0\) is \(\ln(p/(1-p))\), the log-odds when all predictors are 0 or at their reference level. Using the exponential function demonstrates that \(e^{\beta_0}\) is the corresponding *odds* of the outcome and using the inverse logit function demonstrates that \(e^{\beta_0} / (1 + e^{\beta_0})\) is the corresponding *probability* of the outcome.

**Predictor coefficients**

In linear regression, \(\beta_k\) was the difference in the outcome associated with a 1-unit difference in \(X_k\) (or between a level and the reference level). Similarly, in logistic regression, it is the difference in the *log-odds* of the outcome associated with a 1-unit difference in \(X_k\). After some math, we see that \(e^{\beta_k}\) is the **odds ratio (OR)** comparing individuals who differ by 1-unit in \(X_k\). To see why exponentiating \(\beta_k\) results in an OR, start by exponentiating both sides of the logistic regression equation to get the odds.

\[ \frac{p}{1-p} = e^{\beta_0 + \beta_1 X_1 + \beta_2 X_2 + \ldots + \beta_K X_K} \]

For a continuous predictor \(X_1\), the ratio of the odds at \(X_1 = x_1 + 1\) to the odds at \(X_1 = x_1\) (a one-unit difference) can be expressed as the following ratio, for which all the terms cancel except \(e^{\beta_1}\).

\[e^{\beta_0 + \beta_1 (X_1 + 1) + \beta_2 X_2 + \ldots + \beta_K X_K} / e^{\beta_0 + \beta_1 X_1 + \beta_2 X_2 + \ldots + \beta_K X_K} = e^{\beta_1}\]

If the first predictor is instead categorical and we want the OR comparing the first non-reference level to the reference level, then we want the ratio of the odds at \(X_1 = 1\) to the odds at \(X_1 = 0\). This is a 1-unit difference, so the derivation above also applies to categorical predictors.

**Summary of interpretation of regression coefficients**

- The intercept is the log-odds of the outcome when all predictors are at 0 or their reference level. Use the exponential function \((e^{\beta_0})\) to convert the intercept to odds and the inverse logit function \(\left(e^{\beta_0} / (1 + e^{\beta_0})\right)\) to convert the intercept to a probability.
- For a continuous predictor the regression coefficient is the log of the odds ratio comparing individuals who differ in that predictor by one unit, holding the other predictors fixed.
- For a categorical predictor, the regression coefficient is the log of the odds ratio comparing individuals at a given level of the predictor to those at the reference level, holding the other predictors fixed.
- To compute an OR for \(X_k\), exponentiate the corresponding regression coefficient, \(e^{\beta_k}\), thus converting the log of the odds ratio to an OR.
- When there are multiple predictors, ORs are called adjusted ORs (AORs).