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School of Health Research

Abby Stephan, Ph.D


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


Abigail (Abby) Stephan is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and an affiliated faculty member at the Institute for Engaged Aging at Clemson University. Her research a) explores the influence of intergenerational relationships in family, community, and  educational contexts on learning, development, well-being, and health outcomes across the lifespan and b) examines social and psychological factors that promote healthy aging. In addition to taking an ecological, systems-oriented perspective, her work often employs a mixed methods design and is interdisciplinary, drawing from gerontology and aging studies, family and community science, developmental psychology, youth development, education, anthropology, and sociology. She earned her Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) credential to further the translation of research to applied settings. Beyond research, Stephan is committed to advancing the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based educational opportunities that support learners across the lifespan. Two primary avenues for this work include a) creating resources and fostering mentorship opportunities to ensure high-quality training exists for current and future professionals in the field of gerontology and b) promoting lifelong learning through engaging and fulfilling learning experiences for older adults. Stephan is a member of two active research labs at Clemson: the Study of Healthy Aging and Applied Research Programs (SHAARP) Lab and the Contexts of Learning and Development (CLAD) Lab.

How their research is transforming health care

Deemed an epidemic by the United States Surgeon General in 2023, social isolation and loneliness have been linked to adverse health outcomes (e.g., health conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, cognitive decline, depression and anxiety) and are especially pervasive among the nation’s growing proportion of older adults. Positive relationships, especially those that engage individuals across generations, not only promote social connectedness and support health but also provide an avenue for engagement and sense of purpose—both of which are critical components of well-being across the lifespan. Stephan’s research examines these connections and identifies opportunities to strengthen social and psychological outcomes across the lifespan while informing the development of educational interventions that support the health and well- being of older adults and the individuals who serve them. For example, she is collaborating with colleagues at the Institute for Engaged Aging on a pilot study that employs a multigenerational lens to examine discussions and decision-making processes around Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) in families belonging to NIH- defined populations with health disparities (e.g., families in rural communities, racial and ethnic minority groups, families with lower socioeconomic status, etc.). With a focus on understanding the experiences and needs of family members across generations and an emphasis on prevention and early intervention, we plan to develop a workbook or educational series informed by our findings to facilitate challenging conversations around cognitive decline, health conditions, and aging processes.

Health research keywords

Aging, Caregivers, Community, Education, Family, Health Promotion, Older Adults, Social, Connection, Socio-Ecological Model, Well-Being

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