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Guide PHIT Data: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

The BRFSS is an annual telephone survey that collects data on emerging public health issues, health conditions, risk factors and behaviors.

Table of Contents

What you need to know

BRFSS is a telephone survey conducted among adults 18 years of age and older, living in a private residence or college housing, and able to complete the survey in English, Spanish or Portuguese.

Explore these data

These data can provide estimates of the prevalence of the adult population reporting each outcome. Estimates are available overall and by sex, age group, race/ethnicity and educational attainment which can be used to identify health disparities.

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Data limitations

All data collected by the BRFSS are based on self-report from the respondents.  By its nature, self-reported data may be subject to error for several reasons.

An individual may have difficulty remembering events that occurred a long time ago or the frequency of certain behaviors. Some respondents may overreport socially desirable behaviors, while underreporting behaviors they perceive to be less acceptable.

Finally, because the BRFSS surveys a randomly selected sample of Massachusetts adults, these results may differ from another random sample to some extent simply due to chance.

Additionally, persons with the most severe limitations and with certain disabilities are not represented in this sample since individuals living in institutions are not included in the BRFSS.  

BRFSS methodology also precludes anyone from assisting respondents in completing the interview if the selected adult had difficulty in participating for any reason, such as an intellectual or developmental disability.

Additional Resources for Data limitations

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