The NHIS - a “household, multistage probability sample survey conducted annually by interviewers of the U.S. Census Bureau for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics”- collected data on 34,525 adults for the 2012 survey.
A "current regular drinker" was defined for the purposes of the study as someone who “had at least 12 drinks in his or her lifetime or in any 1 year AND had a drink 1-365 times in the past year.”
Just 35.3 percent of those with less than a high school diploma identified themselves as “current regular drinkers.” The percentage increased to 47.3 percent for those with a high school diploma or GED, and to 52.3 percent for those with some college.
However, the highest level of alcohol consumption was reported by people with college degrees: 64.2 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher identified as “current regular drinkers".
The study also revealed that young adults between the ages of 18 and 44 were the most likely to be regular drinkers, with 56.6 percent identifying as such.
In contrast, only 29,6 percent of those aged 75 and over drink alcohol regularly. And nearly a third (30.9 percent) of this demographic group are “lifetime abstainers,” according to the NHIS.
Another study conducted in 2010 by Maria del Carmen Huerta and Francesca Borgonovi of the London School of Economics entitled “Education, Alcohol Use and Abuse Among Young Adults in Britain” produced similar results.
The British study found that “higher educational attainment is associated with increased odds of daily alcohol consumption and problem drinking," adding that "the relationship is stronger for females than males.”
"Both males and females who achieved high-level performance in test scores administered at ages five and 10 are significantly more likely to abuse alcohol than individuals who performed poorly on those tests," the study found. (See Education, Alcohol Use and ABuse Among Young Adults in Britain.pdf)
“We find that a substantial part of the ‘educational effect’, especially among women, occurs because of the way in which educational attainment shapes social position and opportunities in life and by so doing promotes circumstances that favour alcohol consumption,” the British report concluded.