25 States Have Included Sexual Orientation Items in the BRFSS

015-smA review of questionnaires fielded by states in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) revealed that twenty-five states and the District of Columbia included at least one item measuring a dimension of sexual orientation at some point during the period between 1995-2011.

  • 9 states (California, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin) included an item that assessed sexual orientation identity and an item that assessed same-sex sexual behavior.
  • 5 states (Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and Texas) included one item that assessed same-sex sexual behavior. Georgia and Florida did not include sexual orientation items state-wide, but measures were included in some counties.
  • 11 states (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio) and the District of Columbia included one item that assessed sexual orientation identity.

In many states, inclusion of sexual orientation items changed over the period examined. Question wording varied across states and within states across years. Leigh Evans conducted the review by searching CDC’s BRFSS website and State-Added Questions Database, GayData.org, and state health department websites for information and questionnaires. When information was unavailable online, she contacted BRFSS State Coordinators.

For Further Thought

  • What are the advantages of included sexual orientation items on BRFSS?
  • Given the variation in question wording, can findings related to sexual and gender minorities be compared across states?
  • Which dimensions of sexual orientation are most important to include in population-based surveys?