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.

What is 'missing', who goes missing and key statistics relating to the issue.

Missing - key numbers

How many people go missing each year?

An estimated 135,382 individuals were reported missing in England and Wales in 2015/16.

Data for Scotland and Northern Ireland was not included in the National Crime Agency statistics for that year. The National Missing Persons Framework for Scotland esitmates that 30,000 missing person reports are made to Police Scotland each year.

These numbers do not currently include those children who were recorded as 'absent' by the police. In addtion to this, not all missing people are reported to the police at all so these numbers may in fact be significantly lower than the reality.

How many missing incidents are there?

In 2015/16 242,190 missing incidents were recorded by the police in England and Wales.

The discrepancy between the number of individuals and number of incidents is due to people who go missing on multiple occasions. In 2015/16 just under half of the total missing incidents were attributable to people go missing repeatedly.

How long do people go missing for?

The majority of people who go missing will return or be found within 24 hours (79%), only 2% will remain missing for longer than a week.

Children and young people: 53% of children go missing for less than 8 hours. 81% for less than 24 hours. 98% for less than a week.
Adults: 53% of adults go missing for less than 8 hours, 76% for less than 24 hours, 97% for less than a week.

Adults are likely to be missing for longer periods than children.

Further details regarding missing people reported to the police can be found in UK Missing Persons Bureau Missing Persons Data Report.


Who goes missing?


Children and young people are more likely to go missing than adults - 60% of missing incidents in 2015/16, a total of 148,050, related to under-18 year olds.

People are most likely to go missing between the ages of 15 and 17. However, there are also significantly high numbers in the age groups 12-14 and 22-39.


Statistics show that 52% of missing people are male and 47% are female. Less than 1% do not identify as either male or female and in approximately one percent of cases a gender was not recorded.

Although males are generally more likely to go missing than females, between the ages of 12 and 17 this trend is reversed, with 55% of missing reports relating to girls.

Nationality and Ethnicity

This information is currently unavailable, we will be updating it as soon as possible.

Further details regarding missing people reported to the police can be found in UK Missing Persons Bureau Missing Persons Data Report.

Why do people go missing?

People go missing for a myriad of reasons. It is often not possible to identify one singular reason as a person might be facing a number of contributing issues.

People can go missing intentionally or unintentionally and we respect the right of adults to go missing if they choose. However, the majority of people who go missing are vulnerable in some way. Research suggests that up to 80% of adults who go missing have mental health issues and children who go missing are vulnerable due to their young age.

For more information about the reasons that people go missing please see our information sheets relating to adults and children.

Police data records the reason that some people have gone missing. However, this data may be unreliable as it depends upon the missing person or their family disclosing the reason to the police and that being accurately recorded. The most common reason recorded by police for going missing was mental health (15%). The second was a relationship (12%), which might include relationship breakdown with a parent or carer (56% of cases with this reason identified related to individuals aged between 12 and 17). The third most common reason was being abducted (12%), which includes parental abduction. Following this are drugs/alcohol (8%) and depression/anxiety (6%).

Further details regarding missing people reported to the police can be found in UK Missing Persons Bureau Missing Persons Data Report.


What is 'missing'?

The National Police Chiefs' Council's definition for missing: 'Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests the person may be subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another'.

However, there is difficulty in providing 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.


Police statistics

The National Crime Agency's Missing Persons Bureau also publish annual reports about people reported missing to UK police forces. Click on the links below to visit the Missing Persons Bureau website:

2015-16 data report

2014-15 data report

2014-15 and 2013-14 high level data reports

2012-13 data report

2010-11 and 2011-12 data reports


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