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How Many People Go Missing Every Year?

Every year, tens and thousands of people are reported missing. Of these, some are found in hours, in days, in months, even in years. Some of them are never found.

In this guide, we will explore the various reasons behind missing persons, the impact of this issue on society, and what can be done to prevent such occurrences.

What is “Missing”?

To be missing, a person must have disappeared under suspicious circumstances and their whereabouts cannot be determined.  This includes people who have gone missing due to abduction, kidnapping, human trafficking, and other forms of foul play. It also includes individuals who have disappeared voluntarily or involuntarily due to mental health issues, drug or alcohol addiction, and other personal reasons.

Being “missing” is a state of uncertainty for both the individual and their loved ones. It creates immense emotional distress and can lead to long-term psychological issues for those involved.

Research shows that police data is likely to be an underestimate of the true number of missing persons.  This is because not all missing persons are reported to the police, and even when they are, some may not be logged into official databases. Furthermore, there is no globally standardized definition of what constitutes a “missing person,” making it difficult to accurately track this issue.

The Global Scale of Missing Persons: What Statistics Show

The true scale of missing persons worldwide is difficult to determine due to inconsistent data collection and reporting procedures. Here’s an in-depth look at World Population Review’s statistics on missing persons globally:

  • In India, an alarming number of people go missing, with statistics indicating that 88 individuals go missing every hour, totaling 2,130 people daily and approximately 64,851 monthly. States like West Bengal, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan report the highest numbers.
  • The United Kingdom sees around 180,000 people going missing annually. However, this figure is likely an underestimation, as 353,000 files of missing persons are opened each year. Notably, 80% of these missing children are found within 24 hours.
  • Mexico has reported more than 100,000 people missing over two years (2020-2022), many of whom are victims of violence related to organized crime. The actual number of missing persons in Mexico is likely much higher, as many abductions go unreported due to fear of repercussions.
  • In Australia, the Australian Federal Police reported that in 2020-2021, there were more than 43,000 reports of missing persons. Of these, over 6,600 were classified as long-term missing persons who have been missing for more than three months.
  • Nigeria, a kidnapping hotspot in West Africa, recorded 3,000 missing people in the first half of 2021 and 571 kidnappings in January 2022 alone. The causes of kidnapping in Nigeria are diverse, including ransom demands, funding militant activities, and organ harvesting operations.
  • In Ukraine, tens of thousands of people are considered missing following the Russian invasion, adding to those already missing since the beginning of Russian aggression in 2014.
  • Syria, amid its prolonged civil war, has experienced one of the highest numbers of missing persons, with around 100,000 people reported missing as of 2019 due to the conflict.

These statistics only scratch the surface of the global issue of missing persons. The numbers are likely much higher, as many cases go unreported or unresolved.

Statistics of Missing Persons by US States

When most Americans consider mass disasters, events like the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, or the Southeast Asian tsunami often come to mind. However, a less recognized but equally significant crisis is the staggering number of missing persons and unidentified human remains in the United States. This situation is described by experts as a “mass disaster over time.”

The statistics are alarming. According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons (NamUS) database, a national clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases in the U.S., over 600,000 people go missing every year. There are approximately 4,400 unidentified bodies recovered each year, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year.

In the United States, the number of missing persons varies significantly across different states:

  • California has the highest total number of missing persons, with 3,010 cases. However, when considering its large population, the rate is about average, at 7.61 missing persons per 100,000 people.
  • Alaska has a much higher rate of missing persons compared to other states, with 163.76 missing per 100,000 people.
  • Massachusetts has the lowest rate of missing persons, at 2.32 per 100,000.
  • Several states have low rates of missing persons, below 3.5 per 100,000. These include Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, South Dakota, Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire.
  • Rhode Island has the smallest total number of missing persons, with only 29 cases. Other states with less than 100 missing persons include South Dakota, North Dakota, Delaware, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Vermont, the District of Columbia, and Nebraska.

These statistics show a wide variation in the rates and numbers of missing persons across the U.S., influenced by factors like population size and local conditions.

How Many of The Missing Are Found?

On average, around 2,300 people are reported missing daily in the United States. The vast majority of these individuals are found within a short period; however, some cases remain unsolved for years.

According to the FBI, about 70% of all reported missing persons are found or voluntarily returned within 48 to 72 hours. This indicates a significant efficiency in resolving such cases, with many individuals reappearing or being located within a short period after being reported missing. It’s important to note that not all missing persons cases involve criminal circumstances like kidnapping or murder. Each case represents someone’s concern for a person who has disappeared, regardless of the reason behind their absence

Factors That Contribute to Missing People

Several factors contribute to the widespread issue of missing persons around the world, including:

Conflict and Violence

In conflict and post-conflict situations, the chaos and destruction caused by war can lead to mass displacement and large numbers of missing persons. For example, in Colombia, a country that has experienced decades of armed conflict, there have been more than 120,000 people reported missing since the 1980s.

Conflict, Abuse and Neglect at Home

Children and adults can go missing for various reasons such as family conflicts, abuse, and neglect.   Children are especially vulnerable and can be lured or forced into exploitative situations, including trafficking. In some cases, children may run away from home to escape abuse or neglect.

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a significant factor contributing to the global issue of missing persons. According to the International Labor Organization, there are an estimated 28 million people trapped in modern-day slavery, with many of them being victims of human trafficking. Many of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade or labor exploitation and often go missing, making it challenging to locate and rescue them.

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, can also result in large numbers of missing persons. In addition to causing physical destruction, these disasters can also lead to widespread displacement and separation of families, making it difficult to track the whereabouts of loved ones.

Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues are another significant factor contributing to the number of missing persons. People with conditions such as dementia, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder may wander away from home and become disoriented, leading to their disappearance. In some cases, individuals may also deliberately choose to go missing due to mental health challenges.

Poverty and Homelessness

People living in poverty or without stable housing are at a higher risk of going missing. The lack of a fixed address, social support networks, and access to communication tools increases their vulnerability. They might also be more susceptible to exploitation and crime, further elevating the risk of disappearance.

Vulnerable Groups

Certain groups are more vulnerable to going missing than others, including children, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly. These groups may not have the means to seek help or be able to communicate their whereabouts effectively.  They may also be targeted by predators, increasing the risk of abduction and disappearance.

Bridging the Gap


To address the ongoing issue often referred to as a “mass disaster over time,” which includes the large number of missing persons and unidentified human remains in the U.S., the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has implemented a comprehensive plan. This plan involves collaboration with leading experts in criminal justice and forensic science and is part of a broader initiative to enhance the use of forensic DNA in crime solving.

The strategy is multi-pronged and focuses on several key areas:

  1. Training and Education: The NIJ provides specialized training for medical examiners, law enforcement officials, and families of victims. This training is focused on the importance and handling of forensic DNA evidence.
  2. Access to Forensic Resources: To assist in identifying human remains and solving missing persons cases, the NIJ is offering free testing of unidentified remains and family reference samples. This initiative aims to increase the likelihood of identification.
  3. Legislative Support and Guidelines: The NIJ is advocating for model legislation that would require the collection of DNA samples before the disposal of unidentified remains. This legislation would also facilitate the analysis of degraded and older biological samples, enhancing the ability to solve older cases.
  4. Distribution of DNA Kits: The NIJ is making DNA reference sample collection kits available at no cost to jurisdictions nationwide. This effort ensures that all areas, regardless of budget constraints, have access to these essential tools.
  5. Utilization of Federal Databases: The plan encourages increased use of various federal databases in missing persons investigations. These databases include the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the Combined DNA Index System for Missing Persons (CODIS(mp)), the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), and the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP). Each database offers unique capabilities and information that can be crucial in resolving cases of missing persons and unidentified remains.

This comprehensive approach by the NIJ underscores the commitment to bridging the gap in resources and knowledge that can hinder the resolution of missing persons cases. By leveraging technology, enhancing training, and providing critical resources, the initiative aims to significantly improve the ability of state and local jurisdictions to solve these challenging cases.

What Can You Do If Someone You Know Goes Missing?

If someone you know goes missing, it is essential to act quickly and efficiently. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Contact Law Enforcement: Immediately report the disappearance to your local law enforcement agency. Provide as much information as possible, including physical description, last known location, and any relevant details.
  2. Search Surrounding Areas: If you have a good idea of where the person may have gone, you can start searching in that area. Ask friends and family to help with the search.
  3. Reach Out to Social Media: Share information about the missing person on your social media accounts and ask others to do the same. The more people who see the information, the greater the chance of it reaching someone who may have seen the missing person.
  4. Contact Missing Persons Organizations: Many organizations specialize in helping find missing persons. Reach out to them for guidance and support.

Locate Your Loved Ones With a Private Investigator

If traditional methods of locating a missing person have been exhausted, consider hiring a private investigator. Private investigators have specialized training and access to resources that can help them locate individuals who may not want to be found. They can also work with law enforcement to aid in the search. While hiring a private investigator can be costly, it may be worth the expense to bring your loved one home safely.

Here are some reasons to consider hiring a private investigator:

  • Specialized Training: Private investigators are trained in locating and finding missing persons. They have expertise in using various resources, such as databases, surveillance techniques, and interviewing methods.
  • Experience: Private investigators have experience working on missing persons cases and understand the nuances and challenges of these investigations.
  • Access to Resources: Private investigators have access to resources that may not be available to the general public, such as background checks, criminal records, and databases.
  • Objectivity: When a loved one goes missing, emotions can run high. A private investigator can bring an objective perspective to the search and investigation.
  • Collaboration with Law Enforcement: Private investigators often have established relationships with law enforcement officials and can work together to gather and share information.

No one wants to imagine a loved one going missing, but unfortunately, it happens. By staying informed, raising awareness, and taking action when someone goes missing, we can all play a role in bridging the gap and helping bring our communities’ loved ones home safely.

Choose Martin Investigative Services for Your Missing Persons Case

At Martin Investigative Services, we understand the urgency and sensitivity of missing persons cases. With over 40 years of experience in law enforcement and private investigation, our team has the skills and resources necessary to locate your loved one quickly and safely. We have the highest success rate in the industry and a track record of bringing missing persons home.

Our team has compiled the largest database of public information in the United States,  making it easier to locate individuals who may be difficult to find. We also have partnerships with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, providing us access to additional resources and information.

Don’t let your missing person case end up at the bottom of a law enforcement pile. Call us at 800-577-1080 or visit our website to learn more about how we can help you bring your loved one home.