Issues related to missing

There is a wide range of reasons why people go missing, from mental health to being unhappy or unsafe at home, to exploitation. This page contains information about some of those links.

Mental health

Research has shown that between 30% and 80% of people who go missing may be experiencing some form of mental health issue. For adults, up to 8 in 10 missing adults will have a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health problem.

For both children and adults, mental health issues including suicide or self-harm are amongst the most common issues raised in conversations with our helpline. Research we published in 2019 found that 1 in 5 children and young people disclosed information about mental health issues on their return from missing, 1 in 10 was at risk of self-harm and 4% were at risk of suicide.

Trafficking and exploitation

There are strong links between missing, trafficking and exploitation, for people both trafficked into the UK, and for people trafficked within the UK.

Half of exploited children go missing from care, and nearly 20% of those are not found. For children completing return home interviews on their return from missing, 1 in 7 had been sexually exploited, and nearly 1 in 10 had been a victim of criminal or other exploitation. We know that going missing is strongly linked with county lines exploitation, with children and young people going missing while being exploited and trafficked to move and sell drugs and money across the UK.

Our Safecall service is specifically for young people, and their families, affected by exploitation.

Living in care

Children and young people who are looked after are much more likely to go missing than children who are not looked after. In 2019, nearly 12,000 children who were looked after went missing in nearly 75,000 missing incidents, meaning that over 10% of all looked after children went missing at some point during the year.


Research suggests that up to half of people who are homeless had run away or been forced to leave home and that sleeping rough is “a common experience” for both missing adults and children. There are also links between going missing as a child and adult homelessness, with research finding that 84% of young homeless people had previously run away before the age of 16. There are similarities in the causes of homelessness and going missing, including relationship breakdown, mental health problems, and financial issues.

Help available

If you are struggling with any of these main reasons why people go missing, please contact our free, confidential helpline below.

Talk to us


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