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Behavioral Risk-Factor Surveillance in Selected States -- 1985

The behavioral risk-factor surveillance system (BRFSS) operated for its second year in 1985. BRFSS data were collected from adults in 21 states and the District of Columbia by monthly telephone interviews with use of random-digit-dialing techniques. The interviews were conducted with a standard questionnaire and procedures developed jointly by the state health departments and CDC. The risk factors assessed included self-reported overweight, sedentary lifestyle, uncontrolled hypertension, cigarette smoking, alcohol misuse, and seatbelt nonuse for persons 18 years of age and older (Tables 1 and 2). The results presented here are weighted to take into account the age, race, and sex distribution of adults in each state, as well as the respondents' probability of selection, and are therefore representative of the adult populations of the participating states.

The data allow state health departments to compare the prevalence of risk behaviors associated with the 10 leading causes of premature death among adults in their states with similar data for adults in other participating states. These data will be used to monitor trends and to help assess the effectiveness of statewide programs to reduce the prevalence of these behaviors.

Between 1984 (1) and 1985, all 15 states in which data were collected for both years showed some increase in the prevalence of seatbelt use. Three of these states (Ohio, North Carolina, and Illinois) reported substantial increases of between 10.4% and 18.6%.

Other possible trends between 1984 and 1985 occurred in drinking and driving. In 14 of the 15 states, the prevalence of those admitting to driving "after having, perhaps, too much to drink" decreased, while the prevalence in one state (South Carolina) increased slightly. In 12 of 15 states, decreases were reported in binge drinking, defined as having five or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion during the previous month, while increases were reported in three states (Indiana, Utah, and West Virginia). Reported by R Brooks, Office of Health Education, Arizona Dept of Health Svcs; F Capell, Health Education-Risk Reduction Program, California Dept of Health Svcs; S Benn, Chronic Disease Control Section, Connecticut State Dept of Health Svcs; R Conn, EdD, Preventive Health Svcs Administration, District of Columbia Dept of Human Svcs; WW Mahoney, Health Promotion Program, Florida Dept of Health and Rehabilitative Svcs; JD Smith, Div of Public Health, Georgia Dept of Human Resources; JV Patterson, Health Education Section, Bureau of Preventative Medicine, Idaho Dept of Health and Welfare; D Patterson, Div of Education and Information, Illinois Dept of Public Health; S Jain, Div of Health Education, Indiana State Board of Health; K Bramblett, Dept of Health Svcs, Kentucky Cabinet for Human Resources; N Salem, PhD, Minnesota Center for Health Statistics; R Moon, Health Education and Promotion Program, Montana Dept of Health and Environmental Sciences; T Gerber, Bureau of Adult and Gerontological Health, New York State Dept of Health; R Staton, Health Promotion Br, Div of Health Svcs, North Carolina Dept of Human Resources; B Lee, Div of Research, Information and Support, North Dakota State Dept of Health; E Capwell, Ohio Dept of Health, Bureau of Preventive Medicine; Janice Cataldo, Div of Health Promotion, Rhode Island Dept of Health; FC Wheeler, Div of Chronic Disease, South Carolina Dept of Health and Environmental Control; J Fortune, Div of Health Promotion, Tennessee Dept of Health and Environment; GV Lindsay, Bureau of Health Promotion and Risk Reduction, Div of Community Health Svcs, Utah Dept of Health; R Anderson, Health Education Dept, West Virginia Dept of Health; DR Murray, Wisconsin Center for Health Statistics; Div of Nutrition, Center for Health Promotion and Education, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: Although some participating states reported certain differences in rates of behavorial risk factors for 1984 and 1985, it is too early, after only 2 years of data collection, to positively identify these differences as trends. With continued data collection, long-term changes in patterns of behavorial risk factors should be recognized. For example, since 1984, 26 states have attempted to decrease mortality resulting from motor vehicle accidents among their residents by passing a variety of laws mandating the use of seatbelts. It may be significant that in two of the three states with the largest increase in self-reported rates of seatbelt use (Illinois and North Carolina), mandatory seatbelt laws became effective in 1985. The BRFSS promises to be an excellent mechanism for monitoring seatbelt use in states with such laws.


  1. CDC. Behavorial risk-factor surveillance -- selected states, 1984. MMWR 1986;35:253-4.

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