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School of Health Research

Hye Won Chai, Ph.D.


Research Assistant Professor
College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
Faculty Profile


I received my Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania State University in Human Development and Family Studies & Demography. After graduation, I did my postdoctoral training at the University of Texas at Austin where I was involved in a project on health and marital relationships of same-sex and different-sex couples in mid to later life. Based on my training, my research program focuses on 1) social relationships and health in middle and late adulthood, 2) daily experiences of family and social relationships in later life, and 3) social relationships and aging among diverse populations. My research overall aims to examine the proximal and distal pathways through which social and family relationships influence health and aging in mid to later life. I worked on studies that elucidate how different aspects of social relationships, ranging from daily social interactions to aggregated appraisals of social ties, are related to psychological, physical, and biological health outcomes in later life. My line of research also extends to studying family relationships of diverse populations and understanding how it relates to health disparities and aging among racial and sexual minorities across the later lifespan. Building on my research agenda, I am currently working with affiliated Clemson researchers at the Institute for Engaged Aging (IEA) on elucidating social and psychological mechanisms related to prevention and identification of decline in cognitive and everyday functioning among older adults

How their research is transforming health care

My research focuses on identifying ways in which diverse aspects of social and family relationships shape health and aging in later life. One line of my research underscores the importance of social and family relationships for middle and older adults and how their implications for health can vary under different contexts. For example, my work examines how different aspects of family ties, ranging from receiving support from family members to experiencing a death of the family member, are associated with cardiovascular outcomes (e.g., diagnosis with heart problems, biomarkers of cardiovascular health) and whether these associations differ by various demographic and social characteristics. I also examine the health implications of everyday experiences such as daily stressors and positive and negative interactions with other people. Another line of my research focuses studying marital relationships and health among midlife same-sex and different-sex couples. I focus on comparing the health consequences of marital dynamics (e.g., social control, dyadic coping, sexual activities) between men and women in same-sex and different-sex marriages. Findings from this research elucidate how family and couple relationships are related to aging and health among sexual minorities.

Health research keywords

Aging, Health, Health disparities, Social relationships, Dyadic research, Social determinants of health, Stress, Intensive assessments

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College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences | 116 Edwards Hall