How to Calculate Odds Ratios in Logistic Regression Model in R

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Logistic regression is a statistical method for analyzing datasets in which the dependent variable is binary or dichotomous (having two possible outcomes). For example, if you were studying the likelihood of developing a disease based on certain risk factors, your outcome variable might be “has the disease” vs. “does not have the disease.”

One of the most interpretable metrics that come out of logistic regression models is the odds ratio (OR). The odds ratio gives an idea of the effect size of a particular predictor variable in relation to the outcome. This article provides a comprehensive guide to calculating odds ratios in R using the logistic regression model.

1. Basics of Odds Ratios

Before delving into R, it’s essential to understand what an odds ratio represents:

Odds: Odds are the likelihood of an event occurring relative to the event not occurring. It’s calculated as:

where p is the probability of the event.

Odds Ratio (OR): The odds ratio (OR) compares the odds of an event occurring for one group to another group. An OR of 1 implies that the event is equally likely in both groups. An OR greater than 1 indicates that the event is more likely in the first group, while an OR less than 1 suggests the event is less likely in the first group.

2. Setting up R

To run logistic regression in R, you need to use the glm function with the family = "binomial" argument. Before that, ensure you have R and RStudio installed.

3. Preparing Your Data

For this tutorial, let’s use a hypothetical dataset called health_data, with two columns: smoking_status (0 for non-smoker, 1 for smoker) and disease_outcome (0 for no disease, 1 for has disease).

# Sample data
health_data <- data.frame(
  smoking_status = c(0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 1, 0),
  disease_outcome = c(0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 0)

4. Running the Logistic Regression Model

Fit the logistic regression model using the glm function:

model <- glm(disease_outcome ~ smoking_status, data = health_data, family = "binomial")

5. Extracting the Odds Ratios

To get the odds ratios, exponentiate the coefficients from the model:


The coefficient for smoking_status gives you the odds ratio for disease outcome comparing smokers to non-smokers.

For instance, if you get an odds ratio of 3 for smoking_status, it means that smokers are 3 times more likely to have the disease than non-smokers.

6. Confidence Intervals for Odds Ratios

It’s good practice to calculate confidence intervals for odds ratios to provide a range in which the true OR may lie.

conf_int <- confint(model, level = 0.95)  # 95% confidence intervals

7. Interpreting the Odds Ratios

  • OR = 1: No difference in odds between groups.
  • OR > 1: Indicates higher odds of the event occurring in the group of interest.
  • OR < 1: Indicates lower odds of the event occurring in the group of interest.

8. Limitations

Remember, odds ratios don’t provide direct probabilities but rather a relative measure. They can also be sensitive to data imbalances.


The odds ratio is a powerful metric for understanding the relationships between binary outcomes and predictor variables in logistic regression. Using R, you can efficiently compute and interpret these ratios, giving you valuable insights into your data. Remember always to consider the broader context and limitations when interpreting odds ratios.

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