Missing people in the UK

Missing people in the UK

Do you want to learn about missing people in the UK? This blog article covers information on missing people in the UK.

Did you know that in the UK, somebody is reported missing every 90 seconds? When you lose track of somebody, it can be incredibly distressing, especially if there don’t seem to be any leads or any logical explanation as to why that person would have left their home or friends or family. The truth is that there are multiple reasons why people go missing, and there are many more missing people out there than we might assume. While many people are tracked and traced within a few hours, there are some that are never found.  

Many of us have never been in a situation where somebody we know seems to have vanished, but you only have to watch the news or read the papers to know that people do go missing. With the number of cases of missing people on the rise, it’s crucial to look at the reasons why people disappear and to consider if there is anything more that can be done to prevent this from happening and to ensure that more people are found safe and sound if they do leave home.

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Missing people in the UK: the latest statistics

The National Crime Agency published new statistics in spring 2018. The latest figures suggest that:

  • Someone in the UK is reported missing every 90 seconds
  • A total of 180,000 people are reported missing every single year
  • 340,000 incidents of missing persons are reported every year
  • 79% of people return or are found safe within 24 hours

The NCA figures show that there are thousands of cases of missing persons reported every year in the UK. With one report every 90 seconds, this represents a major problem, which requires urgent attention. Now, 180,000 people are reported missing over the course of a 12-month period, and some 340,000 incidents are reported every year.


Who is most likely to go missing?

The majority of missing person cases involve children. Statistics show that 1 in 200 children goes missing, in comparison to 1 in 500 adults. Men are more likely to be reported missing than women. There is a chance that numbers could be significantly higher, as many cases of missing children are not reported to the police, and therefore not recorded by the National Crime Agency. This is often the case when children go missing for a short period of time. Research suggests that vulnerable children and adults are more likely to go missing.


What are the reasons for people going missing?

Statistics suggest that there are varying levels of intention and desire when it comes to missing person reports. Often, particularly with children, there’s a temporary urge to escape or runoff, rather than a compulsion to disappear for a prolonged period of time. In some cases, however, there is a clear intention, and figures suggest that many people who do go missing suffer from health issues, most notably mental health disorders.  


Mental health disorders

National Crime Agency Statistics suggest that up to 80 percent of adults who are reported missing have psychological disorders, which are either undiagnosed or diagnosed. Interviews conducted with adults who have gone missing show that many suffer from depression and some have attempted suicide or self-harm. Mental health problems are also an issue for children. More than 10 percent of children who go missing have mental health issues. This proportion is expected to rise in the UK in the coming years, as reports reveal an increase in the number of children and teenagers affected by psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety.  


Breakups and relationship difficulties

Missing People estimates that around a third of adults who are reported missing have experienced problems in their relationship. This may relate to a breakup, domestic violence or abuse, or ongoing arguments or disagreements.



Dementia is a progressive condition, which affects cognitive ability and memory and increases the risk of confusion. Research suggests that around 40 percent of adults diagnosed with dementia will go missing at some point in their lives. Often, this is unintentional. Approximately 10 percent of cases of missing adults in the UK involve a person who suffers from dementia. Sometimes, when you come across a person who has dementia, they’ve taken the wrong path or left home with a desire to go somewhere to visit friends or family or go back to a place that holds some degree of significance or importance to them. Dementia makes it very difficult to retain memories and to navigate to different places, and this often results in people ending up in a different place to the desired location.



Government statistics show that more than 4,750 people slept on the streets in England in 2017. This figure represents an increase of 15% from 2016 and a seventh consecutive annual rise. Homeless people can be difficult to track and trace because they have no fixed address and many don’t have a job or an established circle of friends or family members. Some may feel that nobody would notice if they disappeared, and they may not even consider themselves missing people. Being homeless is likely to impact both physical and mental health, and charities like Centrepoint and Crisis are worried that it will become increasingly difficult for those sleeping rough to find a way off the streets. People who don’t have a home may go missing for a number of reasons, including mental health issues, or they may take the decision to move to another city or town in a bid to try and make a fresh start or find opportunities.


Missing children and young people

The charity Missing People suggests that there is a range of reasons why children and young people go missing. Although many cases may not be intentional, there is evidence to suggest that a significant proportion of children and teenagers intend to disappear.  

Mental health is an increasingly integral factor, with more than 1 in 10 cases of missing children linked to psychological disorders. More than half of children reported missing have also experienced abuse or neglect at home, and up to 70 percent have experienced sexual exploitation. Studies also suggest that those living in care are more likely to go missing than those who live with family members. The Children’s Society suggests that arguments, a breakdown in relationships with carers and a lack of control and fixed boundaries and rules can contribute to an elevated risk of children in care going missing. In Greater Manchester alone, more than 5,000 children and young people go missing every year, and it is estimated that children in care are three times more likely to go missing.


What are the risks associated with going missing?

When somebody goes missing, there are both immediate and long-term risks to consider. There are many different scenarios that can evolve and develop from a person going missing, and the risks may vary according to the individual. A child that has disappeared without trace may face different risks to an elderly person who has dementia who has gone missing from a care home, for example. Whatever the situation, the priority is always to ensure that the individual is found safe as quickly as possible. Examples of risks that a missing person may face include:

  • Physical health issues associated with a lack of food and water, exhaustion, and exposure to potentially hazardous or unhealthy environments
  • Lack of access to warm clothing and shelter
  • No income or means of accessing funds
  • Crime and abuse
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • The increased vulnerability associated with being alone
  • Loneliness and despair

In the long term, missing people may also be more prone to homelessness, a lack of education and employment, which leads to limited opportunities, mental and physical health disorders, drug or alcohol dependence, and an increased likelihood to engage in criminal activities.


What can I do if somebody I know is missing?

Some cases of missing people become an instant emergency, while in other cases, it can take hours, even days to notice that somebody has gone missing. If a child disappears from a park or a patient goes missing from a hospital or a nursing home, for example, alarm bells will be raised straight away. In contrast, if you haven’t heard from a friend for a few days, but you only speak to them a couple of times a week, you might not think it’s strange that you haven’t heard from them until you try and get in touch a few days later and you continue to call without a response.

Often, intuition plays an important role. Sometimes, there’s a logical reason for a person being late or not showing up to an event or coming home at the same time as normal. Perhaps they’ve dropped their phone, or they’re stuck in miles of traffic jams. Sometimes, even if it seems irrational, you have a feeling that something isn’t right. If you suspect that somebody is missing, it’s best to raise the alarm, especially in high-risk situations. If you have a loved one with a history of mental health problems, for example, or a neighbor with dementia, the sooner you report the issue, the better.

If you’re worried about somebody, it’s a good idea to visit their home or workplace and make some calls and check in with their friends and relatives to make sure that they’re not with them. If you’ve already done this, and you can’t track the person down via their phone or social media, for example, the police will be your first port of call.

When you report a missing person to the police, an officer will ask you some questions about the person in question to try and build a picture of who has gone missing and try and identify the most likely places they will be. They will ask you to provide a description or to share photos and pictures and they will also ask questions about that person’s mental state and their physical wellbeing to determine whether they are at risk.

If a vulnerable person has gone missing, investigations and searches will be launched immediately. The police may also take details about social media accounts, email addresses, and phone numbers from you, and they will also try and get an idea of who has seen that person and where they were when they were last seen. It’s also useful to think about people they may get in contact with and places they may go to. The more information you can provide, the better.

In addition to contacting the police, it is possible to pursue other avenues, such as putting up posters and running a campaign on social media. You can also contact findukpeople.com, which offers a range of services that are designed to track and trace people who have gone missing. Using techniques like phone tracing, Find UK People are able to locate missing people quickly.  


Coping when a loved one goes missing

Thousands of people go missing every year in the UK. When you see stories in the paper or hear headlines on the news, you probably never expect to be in the same situation as the parents making a plea on the local bulletin or the friends desperately looking for a buddy who hasn’t turned up to school.

The truth is that any of us could find ourselves in this situation. Perhaps the hardest thing about a loved one going missing is the uncertainty. You have no idea where they are, what has happened to them, or when they may come home, and for many people who have experience being without a child, a sibling, or a friend for a long period of time, it’s difficult to regain any sense of normality when you’re in a state of limbo and your emotions are heightened.  

If somebody you know has gone missing, try not to panic, and contact the police as soon as possible. Think carefully about where they could have gone and who they may have contacted or seen since you last saw or spoke to them. Get in touch with friends and relatives, and spread the word online.

If it’s been a long time, and you’ve had no news, don’t be afraid to seek help. It’s incredibly difficult and draining to deal with life when somebody who is special to you isn’t there, and there are people who can help, such as charities like Missing People. Although you may feel that you have to put all your effort into searching and staying positive, it’s crucial to look after yourself too.

Every year in the UK, around 180,000 people go missing. If you’re searching for a missing person, contact our expert missing person team to see how we can help with the people tracing.


Introduction – missing people

Do you need to find and locate missing people? It goes without saying that it can be quite a traumatic time when a person you know such a friend or loved one goes missing. The effect that it can have is often devastating and leaves people with a range of feelings and emotions such as anger, depression, bewilderment, and even bereavement.

Such a harrowing experience can also be emotionally confusing and, of course, highly distressing. When people go missing, they sometimes don’t consider the actual impact their actions will have on their loved ones. While people have the right to go missing, many adults and children often do so at a vulnerable stage of their lives.

During the initial stages of a person going missing, their families and friends will understandably focus their energy on searching for them. As a result, their emotions could be either ignored or pushed aside.

How big is the problem of missing persons in the UK? What steps should and do get taken to try and locate them? And just how does it impact those closest to them?


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Fundamental statistics of missing persons in the United Kingdom

According to findings from the NCA (National Crime Agency), an average of around 370 persons per day go missing in Britain. For the financial year 2015/16, approximately 135,382 individuals were recorded as missing.


Missing children

An astonishing 60% of all missing persons are children (individuals under the age of 18 years). Around 1% of all missing persons cases are children aged between 0-1 years old and are typically involving parental abductions or cases where entire families go missing.

The NCA’s data shows that the number of children reported missing rises sharply from the age of 12-14 and declines when the person reaches 18. Of all the children reported missing, 93% were aged between 12 and 18 years old.


Missing adults

Of the 40% of adults (those aged 18 or older) that go missing, 61% of them are men. Approximately 43% of all missing adults are in the 22-39 age group.


Risk assessment

When a person gets reported missing, the police also carry out a risk assessment to determine if the individual could be a danger to themselves or others. There are three risk categories that they use:

Low Risk
There is no apparent threat of danger to themselves or the public. Missing persons under the age of 18 years are not included in this risk category;

Medium Risk
The subject is likely to pose themselves or others in danger, or might be a threat;

High Risk
There are substantial grounds for believing that the missing person poses an immediate threat to themselves or other individuals. They may be in danger because of their own vulnerability, a victim of a serious crime or the public may be at risk from the subject.

According to the NCA’s 2015/16 data, 76.6% were considered medium risk, while 12.6% were in the high-risk category. Just 10.8% of missing persons were assumed to be low risk.


People that repeatedly go missing

There are cases where some individuals may go missing on more than one occasion. The NCA reports that 59% of children under the age of 18 are most likely to go missing twice or more. That’s in comparison to just 21% – less than one-quarter – of all missing adults.


Harm suffered

Of all the adults and children that go missing, 96% did not suffer any injury at all. Around 1.6% of all missing persons suffered some physical harm, with 1.7% self-harming.


Why do people go missing in the UK?

As you can imagine, the reasons why a person decides to go missing vary. It’s also common for individuals to have multiple reasons for wanting to leave their homes and everyday lives.

Around two-thirds of people intentionally decide to abandon their homes and daily lives without telling anyone. Some of the most typical reasons for missing people include:


Relationship breakdowns

A study on missing persons conducted by the University of York back in 2003 (“Lost from View” – Biehal, Mitchell, and Wade) discovered that 30% of adults go missing due to breakdowns in their relationships with partners and spouses.

The reason can also be down to marriage breakdowns when a parent leaves home, and there is a subsequent conflict between the subject and their parents).

In some cases, people decide to leave after heated arguments with their parents or partners. They often see going missing from their loved ones as a last resort due to the longer-term process of relationship breakdowns, but feel they have no other choice to escape their situations.

People that decide to leave their spouses or partners sometimes do so because they want to avoid all contact with their former partners. It’s a sad fact of life that this also happens where children are involved; some parents decide they wish to have no further contact with their offspring.

In some of those parental missing person situations, individuals attempt to cease contact with their children due to issues with their former partners. For instance, one person said he decided to “disappear” because if he tried to contact his children, his ex-wife would try to find him and “give him trouble.”


Conflicts over independence

Not having enough freedom to do what they want is often a reason cited by people when asked why they went missing. These conflicts of independence can take many forms, such as:
Young adults drifting apart from their parents who can’t accept the fact they have “grown-up”; Conflicts over the subject’s choice of partner (i.e. the parents disapproved of the male/female the missing person was seeing).


Domestic violence

According to the charity Living Without Abuse, domestic violence affects around one in four women and one in six men in their lifetime. It also accounts for 16% of all violent crime in England and Wales, yet is also the least-likeliest crime to get reported to the police.

Many domestic violence victims feel they have no way out of their situation other than to just escape from their lives and attempt to start afresh elsewhere. Doing so means they often leave behind their family and friends to hide from their old lives.


Dementia and mental health problems

The Lost from View study by the University of York mentioned earlier also claims that around 11% of adults go missing due to dementia and mental health concerns.

According to the charity MIND, at least one in six people suffer from a common mental health condition such as depression. They also note that depression affects around 2.6 out of 100 individuals in England alone.

Meanwhile, the Alzheimer’s Society says that 850,000 people have dementia in the United Kingdom. They estimate the figure to soar to around 2 million by the year 2051.

Statistics from the NCA show that 22% of all missing persons cite mental health problems as the reason for leaving their homes and everyday lives.


The impact missing people has on families

As you can imagine, when a loved one goes missing it can leave devastating consequences for their families. There are many emotional challenges that loved ones cannot overcome when someone close to them seemingly disappears from existence.

It’s no secret that the feelings and emotions experienced by families are akin to feeling bereaved. The only difference is, their families have no idea whether the missing person is still alive or not. As such, they experience a lack of resolution and ambiguous loss.

And it’s not uncommon for families to describe the situation as feeling like they are living in limbo. That is, there is a never-ending “not knowing” – they don’t know if the missing person is okay, where they are or why the person left, or even if they intend on coming back home.

Families also feel like they are suspended in a constant state of pain and uncertainty. They cannot move forward with their lives, and marking family events like birthdays and Christmas also poses a lot of dilemmas and anguish. The families of most missing persons often say they would rather know something about the disappearance of their loved ones rather than nothing at all.

There is no denying that families of those that have gone missing feel like they are on a never-ending emotional roller coaster.


What to do if someone you know goes missing

It can sometimes be difficult to know what to do if someone close to you goes missing. Do you have reason to believe that your loved one has gone missing? And do you feel they aren’t just somewhere unreachable due to lack of mobile reception, for instance? If so, it’s vital that you act straight away to increase the chances of finding them sooner rather than later.

If they don’t live with you, the first thing you should do is go to where they live and search for their home. Sometimes, a person may be unreachable due to a sustained injury in their home. And, as can be the case with children, your loved one could be hiding somewhere.

Should you be unable to find them at home, try to look for clues as to where they might have gone. Examples include notes and messages written on notepads.

Next, you should contact other family members and their friends to find out if they have gone there. That can sometimes be the case if they had an argument with you or someone else in your family and stormed off without saying where they were going.

It’s also worth keeping a mental or written note of who you have contacted or where you have searched to avoid wasting any time.

If your initial investigations have not produced any results, the next step is to contact the police and report them missing. Remember: you do not have to wait 24 hours before reporting a person missing in the UK.

The police will ask you for some details, including a physical description, when you last saw them, and if they mentioned that they wanted to go somewhere soon. They will also require you to provide details about the person’s health and any medication that they need to take. All those questions get asked to build up a clear picture of the individual and risk-assess them.

If your loved one drives a car or rides a motorcycle, the police will want those details too. They may also ask for other information, such as whether they use social media or have a mobile telephone.

You should also advise the police if the person is a child that is at risk of harm. In some circumstances, they can raise what’s known as a Child Rescue Alert.


Missing people lines of enquiry

If someone that you know has gone missing for a while, the police will have pursued many lines of enquiry. It’s also likely that you will have done the same, such as contacting local hospitals and even homeless shelters and charities in your area.

There are many other things you can do to try and track down a missing person, especially if they have not been found for quite some time. An appeal on social media is something that is easy to do and has the advantage of reaching out to a broad audience. Your local police force will also have posted details of your loved one on their social media profiles too.

If you believe the person has gone missing because they just wanted to start a new life, it’s possible to try and trace them in other ways too.

For example, Find UK People® offer several services to help locate missing persons, and we have a 98% success rate. What’s more, we offer a “no trace, no fee” service for added peace of mind. When we do locate individuals, we can usually find them within 24 hours.

They use a variety of sources to complete all inquiries and can trace the location of individuals from their mobile numbers even.

Last, but not least, you should have regular contact with the police officer assigned to your missing person’s case. That way, you can both determine if any new lines of enquiry should be pursued.


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