Missing Persons: Part Three – Adults

Welcome to the third instalment of my missing persons study. So far, we’ve had an overall look at what missing really means, and at vulnerable children. This time we’re looking at reasons why adults go missing. Statistically, one in every 500 adults go missing each year, under a variety of circumstances which I will outline below.

By choice

We know less about missing adults than we do missing children, this is likely because a portion of adults go missing of their own accord. Unless there are legal reasons, they are under investigation in the criminal justice system, or have been detained under the Mental Health Act, adults are completely free to go missing should the choose to. In fact, a MissingPersons.org report titled ‘Lost from View’ states that two thirds of missing adults do so as a choice. Almost 20% of those cases involved adults who have drifted away from friends of family over time, rather than actively leaving. 16% left unintentionally with 1% being forced/asked to leave.

Diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health issues

Whether it’s an ongoing condition or something has triggered a breakdown, up to 8 out of 10 adults who go missing do so due to mental health issues. This includes illnesses such a bipolar, depression, anxiety, gender dysphoria, eating disorders and more. Leaving could be a coping mechanism, a symptom, or perhaps even so they are not a burden upon their loved ones. It’s widely reported that mental health facilities in this country are lacking, which is further evidenced by the substantial amount of people who go missing due to mental illness.

Dementia also plays a part in missing adults’ cases. Around 1 in 10 adult missing incidents involve dementia. 4 in every 10 people who suffer from dementia going missing at some point, often unintentionally.

Relationship breakdown

A breakdown in a relationship is the cause of 3 in 10 missing adults’ cases. Ending a relationship, regardless of who made the decision, can be difficult and very traumatic. This can cause people to feel they need to escape, which can lead to running away or going missing. This can also include a person wanting to lose contact with people, which comes under the 20% voluntary missing people mentioned above.


The Lost from View report also states that 23% of missing adults were unemployed, with a further 11% being unable to work due to illness and/or disability. The report also states that almost half of people surveyed had not experienced any employment or education. While 23% represents all missing people, 60% of these were within working age but out of work when they went missing.


Of course, these are not the only reasons for an adult going missing, others include, alcohol or drug misuse, financial concerns, childhood abuse, violence or homelessness. It’s likely that there are several reasons per case and some likely overlap.

There are, of course, more disturbing reasons to cause a person to go missing, such as kidnapping and hostage-taking. Criminal reasons for missing people are handled by the police and in the main have little to do with private investigation, however, I always believe the role of a PI is interchangeable and can benefit any investigation – criminal, civil or otherwise.

In this study so far we’ve profiled the circumstances under which people go missing. In the next instalment I’ll tell you about what happens next; how to find them.