75% of missing adults experience harm while away

New research by Missing People has found that the number of missing adults who come to harm while away is staggeringly high. It also finds that the number is much higher than currently shown in national statistics:

  • Over 75% of missing adults were found to have come to harm, while the National Crime Agency reports the figure to be just 10%.

Almost 400 adults are reported missing in the UK each day, however, very little is known about the harm they face while missing. Our research explores the harm experienced by adults while away, as well as the impact of this harm after they return.

Key findings:

  • 3 in 4 adults who have been missing experienced harm while away
  • 40% of returned missing adults disclosed trying to take their own life
  • 60% disclosed experiencing other forms of harm, including being threatened, sexually assaulted or experiencing physical violence, while away.

The research also found that missing episodes had a significant impact on the lives of people once they had returned:

  • 66% of missing adults said that being missing impacted their mental health
  • 57% said that going missing had a negative impact on their relationships and their own sense of wellbeing.

“Adjusting back to normal life was difficult and I found it more difficult to interact with peers as I had had negative experiences they hadn’t and probably wouldn’t understand.”

– Previously missing adult

These figures indicate that the prevalence of harm experienced by missing adults is much higher than previously thought.

Why do adults go missing?

The research also looks into the reasons why adults go missing, which we know are varied and complex. Previous research has shown links between missing and mental health, dementia and relationship breakdown, as well as substance misuse and financial issues.

This new study found that, broadly, the main reasons for adults going missing can be broken down into three areas:

  1. Mental health and suicide
  2. Relationships and living situation
  3. Finances and money concerns

Suicidal feelings and mental health issues were found to be the most common reasons for missing episodes.

When adults were asked why they had left, responses included:

“Feeling like a burden so wanting to disappear and not bother anyone.”

“Life was just going wrong. I didn’t want to talk to people, I just wanted to get as far from people as possible.”

“I was [experiencing] very low moods and wanted to end it and I felt like there wasn’t enough support in place to be able to pick myself up.”

To learn more about the harm that missing adults face while away, download our information sheets. These information sheets cover the key findings and themes explored in the research, and can be found here.

Download the full report here

Sign up to be a Digital Search Hero

We have launched a regular email so that you can be aware of new missing person appeals and share them far and wide! We are also calling on all Heroes to be the eyes and ears for Missing People on the ground. Your sighting of a missing person could make a difference in a crucial time.