The student loan debt burden in the United States could be reaching a breaking point, and new research has found it's having an effect beyond younger people. 

But let's start by wrapping our arms around this issue because the debt outstanding is massive, more than a trillion dollars for attending school in the United States. Shamier Settle of the Fiscal Policy Institute has looked into the issue. 

"That's an artifact of the way we've been asking students to finance their loans," she said. "It's really a one-size-fits-all approach that's landed 45 million people with debt. So there are 45 million Americans with student loan debts, the balance is $1.6 trillion. It's very common."

Settle's research found increasingly it's older Americans who are carrying student debt burdens. And so for younger people it could make buying a house or starting a business harder. For older people it may be a life or death situation. 

"When we think of people over 60 the impact might be sacrificing health care needs, medicines, doctors’ visits, that sort of thing," she said.

So what can be done? Settle says things like refinancing loan debt is helpful as are the zero percent interest rates. There's also a pitched political debate surrounding the cancellation of some student debt. But more information is needed. 

"We need more data. We went into this project looking into who, which New Yorkers, were most saddled by student loans," she said. "But it was very difficult to find that information and it shouldn't be more difficult."