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United States Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

Series type 
In-country survey series
Time period 
1984 - present

This overarching series represents two categories of BRFSS datasets: (1) BRFSS survey data released by the CDC and (2) BRFSS survey data released by individual states.

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is a system of telephone surveys that collect data about US residents regarding health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services. The CDC started the BRFSS in 1984 in 15 states. BRFSS now collects data in all states as well as some territories (Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Guam). The questions vary over the years but generally included the following topics: high blood pressure, alcohol and tobacco consumption, diet, exercise, home safety, seat belt use, health care use, screening for colorectal and breast cancers, and sexual behaviors. The focus is on actual behaviors, rather than knowledge or attitudes. BRFSS conducts over 400,000 interviews every year.

The BRFSS is organized by the CDC and conducted by individual state health departments. The CDC annually releases a standard BRFSS dataset that includes:

  • Annual Standard Core: The portion of the questionnaire that is included each year and must be asked by all states. This includes questions about emerging health topics. After one year, these questions are either discontinued or incorporated into the standard core, rotating core, or optional modules.
  • Biannual Rotating Core: The portion of the questionnaire asked by all states on an every other year basis.
  • Optional Modules: Sets of standardized questions on various topics that each state may select and include in its questionnaire. Once selected, a module must be used in its entirety and asked of all eligible respondents. If an optional module is modified in any way, then the questions will be treated as state-added questions.

Individual states gather data on additional topics related to their health priorities with State-Added Questions. State-Added Questions are not funded by the CDC so are not included in the standard dataset released to the public. These questions must be requested from individual states.

The CDC-released dataset also differs from state-released datasets with regards to geographic granularity. The CDC-released BRFSS datasets have had various geographic granularities over the years:

  • 1984-1987: state level
  • 1988-2012: county level with small numbers suppressed
  • 2013-present: state level

Follow this link to view the series for CDC-released standard BRFSS datasets.

The state-released BRFSS datasets include data with varying geographic granularity such as county level or multi-county groupings. See the state BRFSS record descriptions for more information.

United States Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Dataset Records

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