Key information

Below you will find key statistics and figures about missing

Key statistics and figures

  • 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  

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 compared to 1 in 200 children. Looked after children who are reported missing will be reported on average 6 times  

Most of the people who are reported missing may be experiencing some kind of vulnerability or risk. This can be exacerbated by being missing, particularly where someone goes missing more than once.  

How did we come up with these figures? The statistics were developed by Missing People using statistics in the National Crime Agency report 2016-17. The figures used are the number of incidents (I.e. the total number of reports of someone going missing, including missing incidents) and the number of individuals (I.e. number of individual adults and children reported missing, which does not reflect repeat missing).  

Under-reporting  

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’? 

There is not one multi-agency definition of missing, however for definition for police is “anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established will be considered as missing until located, and their well-being or otherwise confirmed.”  

How long are people missing for?

Why do children and young people go missing?

There are a wide range of reasons why adults and children go missing, and often there is more than one cause. Some of the most common reasons for children to be missing are:

Conflict, abuse and neglect at home

  • More than half of missing children have experienced this and 1 in 5 felt forced to leave  

Sexual exploitation

  • 7 in 10 young people who have been sexually exploited have also been reported missing  
  • 1 in 7 of the children who completed return home interviews with Missing People had been sexually exploited  

Trafficking

  • 1 in 4 trafficked children who are looked after in local authority care have gone missing  
  • Nearly 1 in 10 children who completed return home interviews with Missing People had been a victim of criminal exploitation 

Mental health

  • 1 in 5 children who completed return home interviews with Missing People disclosed information about mental health issues  
  • 1 in 10 was at risk of self-harm  
  • 4% were at risk of suicide  

The most common issues raised in conversations with the children contacting in our helpline are:

  • Problems at home  
  • Abuse, domestic violence or child sexual exploitation  
  • Mental health issues including risks of suicide or self-harm  
  • Living in care  

Research about the information shared in return home interviews can be found in A Safer Return 

Research about the reasons why people go missing can be found in Lost from View

To access the above research and for more information about children and young people going missing, please visit Missing People’s research pages

Why do adults go missing?

There is relatively little research about the reasons why adults go missing. Missing People is currently conducting research into this issue in order to better understand these factors and how to support adults affected by missing. From existing research, the most common reasons for adults to be missing are:

Diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health issues

  • Up to 8 in every 10 missing adults  

Relationship breakdown

  • 3 in 10 missing adults  

Dementia

  • Around 1 in 10 adult missing incidents  
  • 4 in every 10 people with dementia will go missing at some point, often unintentionally  

Financial problems

  • 1 in 50 adults have stated this as a principal reason for missing  

Escaping violence

  • 1 in 50 missing adults

The most common issues raised in conversations with adults contacting our helpline are:

  • Mental health issues, including risks of suicide or self-harm  
  • Homelessness  
  • Problems are home, including relationship breakdown  
  • Abuse or domestic violence 

For more information about adults going missing please visit Missing People’s research pages. 

If you would like to know more about how Missing People support those affected by missing please visit our get help pages.