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Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

Key web links

Home page

About BRFSS:

Questionnaires / data collected:

Dataset Summary

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) comprises an annual series of telephone-based surveys on health behaviors, preventive health, and access to health care with a focus on chronic disease and injury.  Over 350,000 adults are interviewed each year in all 50 states plus selected US territories, facilitating inter-state comparisons.  In addition, individual states may supplement the core survey with additional questions, allowing substantial flexibility.  BRFSS data has been widely used for research and to inform legislative efforts related to health.  Data are free and publicly accessible.  In addition, the Web Enabled Analysis Tool (see link above) allows users to do on-the-spot cross-tabs and logistic regressions of BRFSS data.

Dataset Details

Dataset owner   

Centers for Disease Control

Study and sample characteristics   

BRFSS is a serial cross-sectional survey of adults age 18 and older.  Data have been collected since 1984, and 350,000 adults are interviewed each year.

Major foci  

BRFSS asks questions on a variety of topics, with a particular focus on conditions and behaviors that are associated with leading causes of death such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and injury.

BRFSS questionnaires include core questions and optional modules.  Core questions include (1) fixed questions asked each year; (2) rotating questions asked every other year; and (3) emerging core questions that focus on issues of special recent pertinence.  States must ask the core questions, but may elect to ask or not ask items on optional modules, which cover additional health topics or core topics in greater depth.
Core sections for the 2011 survey include:

•    Health Status
•    Healthy Days — Health-Related Quality of Life
•    Health Care Access
•    Sleep
•    Exercise
•    Diabetes
•    Hypertension Awareness
•    Cholesterol Awareness
•    Cardiovascular Disease Prevalence
•    Asthma
•    Tobacco Use
•    Demographics
•    Caregiver Status
•    Disability
•    Alcohol Consumption
•    Immunization
•    Arthritis Burden
•    Fruits and Vegetables
•    Physical Activity
•    Emotional Support and Life Satisfaction
•    Cancer Survivors
Optional modules are wide-ranging, and include topics such as:
•    Cancer screening
•    Reactions to race
•    Carbon monoxide detectors
•    Adverse childhood experience
•    Human Papilloma Virus
•    Shingles

Special supplements and resources  

BRFSS offers a variety of tools to get on-the-spot results over the web including:

-    city and county-level data
-    cross-tabs and logistic regressions
-    maps / geographic information systems

These can be found under the “Interactive Databases” heading on the home page:


Papers published  

Click here for a PubMed search for articles using this dataset.

Scientific Publication Database:

Examples of papers published using BRFSS include:

The intergenerational transmission of witnessing intimate partner violence.
Cannon EA, Bonomi AE, Anderson ML, Rivara FP.
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Aug;163(8):706-8.

Prostate-specific antigen screening among young men in the United States.
Scales CD Jr, Antonelli J, Curtis LH, Schulman KA, Moul JW.
Cancer. 2008 Sep 15;113(6):1315-23.

Perceived discrimination in health care and use of preventive health services.
Hausmann LR, Jeong K, Bost JE, Ibrahim SA.
J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Oct;23(10):1679-84.

Correlates of the stages of change for physical activity in a population survey.
Garber CE, Allsworth JE, Marcus BH, Hesser J, Lapane KL.
Am J Public Health. 2008 May;98(5):897-904.

Use of recommended ambulatory care services: is the Veterans Affairs quality gap narrowing?
Ross JS, Keyhani S, Keenan PS, Bernheim SM, Penrod JD, Boockvar KS, Federman AD, Krumholz HM, Siu AL.
Arch Intern Med. 2008 May 12;168(9):950-8.

Dataset accessibility and cost  

Data is free and directly downloadable off the BRFSS website.  Import utilities and data management utilities for SAS are available on the website.

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