Behavioral Risk Factor Survey Module
Definitions of Survey Measures
The measures included in the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey module are those for which data are available from all survey
A. Risk Factors
Prevalence of binge drinkers, drinkers who did not binge, and non-drinkers.
Prior to 2006, binge drinkers were those reporting they had 5 or more alcoholic drinks on at least one occasion during
the past 30 days. Beginning in 2006, female binge drinkers are those reporting they had 4 or more alcoholic drinks on at
least one occasion during the past 30 days. For males, binge drinkers continue to be those reporting they had 5 or more
alcoholic drinks on at least one occasion during the past 30 days.
Survey questions: Drinkers are those reporting at least one drink in the past 30
days when asked "During the past 30 days, how many days per week or per
month did you have at least one drink of any alcoholic beverage?" They were
then asked "Considering all types of alcoholic beverages, how many times during
the past 30 days did you have 5 (4 for females, beginning in 2006) or more drinks on an occasion?"
Prevalence of heavy drinkers, drinkers who did not drink heavily, and non-drinkers.
Heavy drinkers are men reporting an average of more than 2 drinks per day and women reporting an average or more than
1 drink per day during the past 30 days.
Survey question: Drinkers are those reporting at least one drink in the past 30 days when asked "During the past 30
days, how many days per week or per month did you have at least one drink of any alcoholic beverage?" They were then
asked, "One drink is equivalent to a 12 ounce beer, a 4 ounce glass of wine, or a drink with one shot of liquor. On
the days when you drank, during the past 30 days, about how many drinks did you drink on the average?"
Drinking and driving
Adults who drank and drove at least once in the past 30 days.
Survey question: "During the past 30 days, how many times have you driven when you've had perhaps too much to drink?"
Smoking status as current smoker, former smoker, or never smoked.
Survey questions: Current and former smokers responded "yes" to "Have you smoked at least 100 cigarettes in your
life?" They were then asked "Do you now smoke cigarettes every day, some days, or not at all?" Current smokers
are those who reported smoking cigarettes either every day or some days.
Attempts to quit smoking
Current smokers who attempted to quit at least once during the past 12 months. Survey question: Current smokers were
asked "During the past 12 months, have you stopped smoking for one day or longer because you were trying to quit
Smoking policy at work
Employed adults aged 18+ in the Wisconsin Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFS) sample who reported the smoking policy in their workplace.
Survey Question: "Which of the following best describes your place of workís official smoking policy for work areas? Smoking is not allowed anywhere, smoking is allowed in some work areas, smoking is allowed in all work areas, or no official smoking policy?"
Overweight or obese
Categories of obese, overweight, or not overweight, based on Body Mass Index (BMI).
BMI is calculated from self-reported height and weight by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared
(w/h**2). A BMI of 25 or greater is classified as overweight. A BMI of 30 or greater is classified as obese.
Survey questions: "About how tall are you without shoes?" and "About how much do you weigh without shoes?"
Typically 2% to 3% of BRFS respondents indicate that they donít know, or are unwilling to report, their weight.
Exercise is minimally defined as any leisure time physical activity.
Survey question: "During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities
or exercise such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?"
B. Health Conditions
General health status
Self-reported general health status as "excellent/very good," "good," or "fair/poor."
Survey question: "Would you say in general that your health is excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?"
Responses of "excellent" and "very good" were combined, as were responses of "fair" and "poor."
Prevalence of arthritis, defined by BRFS as diagnosed arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia.
BRFS interviewer notes detailing arthritis diagnoses also include: rheumatism, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, bunion, tennis elbow,
carpal tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome, joint infection, Reiter's syndrome, ankylosing spondylitis, spondylitis, rotator cuff syndrome,
connective tissue disease, polymositis, Raynaud's syndrome and vasculitis.
Survey question: "Have you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis,
gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia?"
The current prevalence of asthma: persons who say they have been diagnosed with asthma and still have it.
Survey questions: "Do you still have asthma?" Asked only of respondents who said "Yes" when asked "Have you
ever been told by a doctor, nurse, or other health professional that you have asthma?"
The prevalence of diabetes: persons who say they have been diagnosed with diabetes, excluding pregnancy-related diabetes.
Survey questions: "Have you ever been told by a doctor that you have diabetes?" If females responded "Yes," they
were asked "Was this only when you were pregnant?" Those who were diabetic only while pregnant were placed in the
Ever told cholesterol is high
Adults who have ever had their cholesterol checked and have been told by a health professional that their cholesterol is high.
Survey question: "Have you ever been told by a doctor, nurse or other health professional that your blood cholesterol is high?"
Flu shot in last 12 months, ages 65+
Percent of adults ages 65 and older who had a flu shot in the past 12 months.
Survey question: "A flu shot is an influenza vaccine injected into your arm. During the past 12 months, have you had a flu shot?"
C. Health Screening
Tested for HIV
Prevalence of HIV testing among adults age 18-64.
Survey question: Respondents age 18-64 were asked "Have you ever been tested for HIV? Do not count tests you may have
had as part of a blood donation. (Include saliva tests.)"
Pap test in past 3 years
Excludes women who have had a hysterectomy.
A Pap test is a test for cancer of the cervix. Have you ever had a Pap test?
How long has it been since you last had a Pap test? Answers: within the past year, within the past 2 years,
within the past 3 years, within the past 5 years, 5 or more years, don't know, refused.
Have you had a hysterectomy? (A hysterectomy is an operation to remove the uterus (womb).)
Ever had cholesterol checked
Adults who have ever had their blood cholesterol tested.
Survey question: "Blood cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood. Have you ever had your blood cholesterol checked?"
Length of time since cholesterol checked
Length of time since cholesterol was last tested among adults who have ever been tested.
Survey question: "About how long has it been since you last had your blood cholesterol checked? Within the past year
(<12 months ago), within the past 2 years (1 year but < 2 years ago), within the past 5 years (2 years but <5 years ago), 5 or
more years ago."
Age 50+: Ever had a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy
Adults ages 50+ who have had a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
Survey question: "Sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy are exams in which a tube is inserted in the rectum to view the colon for
signs of cancer or other health problems. Have you ever had either of these exams?"
Women 40+: mammogram in the past 2 years
Women ages 40+ who have a mammogram in the past 2 years
Survey questions: 1) "A mammogram is an x-ray of each breast to look for breast cancer. Have you ever had a mammogram?"
[if yes] 2) "How long has it been since you had your last mammogram? Within the past year, within the past 2 years, within
the past 3 years, within the past 5 years, 5 or more years ago."
D. Respondent Characteristics
When a sampled telephone number is contacted, the interviewer asks for the numbers of men and women age 18 or older
living in the household. Then one adult is selected randomly on the basis of age and sex to be the respondent ("oldest
male," for example).
Four alternative sets of age groups are offered.
Survey question: "What is your age?"
Trend Data Module: Five categories are constructed from the survey questions: Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black,
Non-Hispanic American Indian, Non-Hispanic Other, Hispanic/Latino. There are not enough cases to display Asians and Native Hawaiian/Other
Pacific Islanders, either as separate categories or grouped into one category. They are combined with Multiracial and Other race respondents
to form the Non-Hispanic Other category.
All Counties Module: Three categories are constructed from the survey questions: Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black, and Other
Survey questions: Respondents are first asked, "Are you Hispanic/Latino?" Then they are asked "Which one or
more of the following would you say is your race: White; Black/African American; Asian; Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific
Islander; American Indian/Alaska Native; Other?" If respondents select more than one racial group, they are asked,
"Which one of these groups best represents your race?"
Educational attainment of respondent, grouped into "less than high school," "high school graduate/GED," "some
college/tech school," "college graduate/post graduate."
Survey question: "What is the highest grade or year of school you completed?"
Respondent employment status.
Survey Question: "Are you currently employed for wages, self-employed, out of work for more than one year, out of work for
less than one year, a homemaker, a student, retired or unable to work?"*
*Note: Trends module collapses some response categories.
Health insurance status
Whether respondent has any health insurance coverage of any kind (yes or no).
Survey question: "Do you have any kind of health care coverage, including health insurance, prepaid plans such as
HMOs, or government plans such as Medicare?"
Marital status of respondent grouped into "married/unmarried couple," "divorced/separated," "widowed," "never married."
Survey question: "Are you married; divorced; widowed; separated; never married; or a member of an unmarried
Number of persons in the household
Household size as 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 or more persons, calculated from questions asking the numbers of adults and children
in the household.
Survey questions: "How many members of your household, including yourself, are 18 years of age or older?" "How
many children less than 18 years of age live in your household?"
Number of children in the household
Number of children as zero, 1, 2, or 3 or more.
Survey question: "How many children less than 18 years of age live in your household?"
Household income in broad or more detailed groups.
Survey question: "Is your annual household income from all sources:
- Less than $10,000,
- $10,000 - $14,999,
- $15,000 - $19,999,
- $20,000 - $24,999,
- $25,000 - $34,999,
- $35,000 - $49,999,
- $50,000 - $74,999, or
- $75,000 or more?"
Typically 9% to 12% of the respondents indicate that they donít know, or are unwilling to report, their household income.
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Last Revised: November 08, 2011