Research and information

A collection of current knowledge about the issue of missing as well as our research reports, projects, collaborations and events.  

Understanding the reasons why people go missing and the impact on families left behind enables Missing People and our partners to provide better services.

Missing People’s research team conducts research and evaluation projects on a range of topics, and seeks to share the findings through these web pages. 

The Policy and Research team also provides a hub of information about missing, advocates for change through campaigns and policy work, and monitors and evaluates the charity's impact.

Missing News

The Policy and Research team circulates a regular newsletter, Missing News, containing up to date information about research, policy, events and sector developments. To sign up to Missing News, or to read previous editions, click here.

Article Index

  • Someone is reported missing every 90 seconds in the UK
  • 176,000 people are reported missing every year
  • There are 353,000 reported missing incidents every year
  • Children are more likely to be reported missing than adults: 1 in 200 children goes missing each year; 1 in every 500 adults goes missing every year

How many people go missing each year?

  • Missing people: of the 176,000 people reported missing nearly 100,000 are adults and nearly 76,000 are children

  • Missing incidents: of the 353,000 reported incidents over 130,000 incidents are adults and almost 220,000 incidents are children

  • Looked after children are at high risk of being reported missing. 1 in 10 looked after children are reported missing each year compared to 1 in 200 total children. Looked after children who are reported missing will be reported on average 6 times

The number of missing incidents is higher than the number of individuals who go missing because some people go missing more than once. Most of the people who are reported missing are vulnerable or at risk and many are reported missing multiple times, making them even more vulnerable.  In recent years statistics have shown an increase in the number of children reported missing more than once, it is not possible to state whether this indicates an increase in the number of children who go missing on more than one occasion, or if a similar number of children are going missing a greater number of times. 

These statistics were developed by Missing People using statistics in the National Crime Agency Missing report 2018-19. The figures used are the number of incidents (i.e. total number of reports of someone going missing, including repeat missing incidents) and number of individuals (i.e. number of individual adults and children reported missing, which does not reflect repeat missing).


Research shows that police data is likely to be a significant underestimate. There are limitations to the NCA data, including differing recording practices and incomplete data, and some people will not be reported missing to the police at all. Research suggests that as many as 7 in 10 children are not reported to the police when they go missing. Little is known about adults who are not reported missing.

What is 'missing'?

The definition for missing in police Authorised Professional Practice is: 'Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established will be considered as missing until located, and their well-being or otherwise confirmed'.

However, it is difficult to provide a singular definition for missing. This largely stems from the huge variety of potential reasons behind a person going missing, and the different ways an incident may be understood by different parties. Adults, unless they are within the criminal justice system or detained under various sections of the Mental Health Act, have a legal right to go missing. For more information regarding this question please see our information sheet.

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