How many people go missing each year?
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 2021-22. 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).
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.
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.”
81% of children are found within 24 hours, and 91% are found within 2 days. Less than 2% of children will be missing for longer than a week.
77% of adults are found within 24 hours, and 87% are found within 2 days. Only 3% of adults will be missing for longer than a week, and less than 1% for longer than a month.
Longer term missing
While going missing for a long period of time is thankfully quite rare, as of the end of March 2022 there were over 5,200 ‘long-term missing individuals’ in the UK. These are people who have been missing for over a year. Over 1,700 of these individuals were children and nearly 3,000 were adults. There are almost 1000 individuals where the age was either unknown or not reported.
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:
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.
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:
4 in every 10 people with dementia will go missing at some point, often unintentionally
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.