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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
Who goes missing and why
Police divers recover a body from the Thames
Police search for Amanda Dowler
As the search for missing teenager Amanda Dowler continues, BBC News Online looks at who goes missing and the reasons why.

According to the latest Home Office figures around 210,000 people are reported missing each year, but little is known about the phenomenon.

The vast majority return safe and sound within 72 hours.

There is no central or single source of statistical information on the growing social problem, but most is known about those under 18 who go missing than any other group.

According to most recent research from the National Missing Persons Helpline (NMPH) over 100,000 young people run away each year or are forced to leave home to escape problems.

Reasons for leaving
Family conflict
Of this figure 77,000 children under 16 are running away for the first time.

The research suggests that around a quarter of children first run away before the age of 11 and one in 14 children who run away, first run before the age of eight.

Girls are twice as likely as boys to run away from the age of 14 to 17.

According to the Children's Society 45% of children in care run away overnight compared to 9.5% of those living with their own families.

Almost one third of children who spend time in care run away three times or more.

Statistics on what happens to young people who run away are disturbing reading.

Children who have been away for a week or more have a 44% chance of being hurt while on the run and 67% of those who stayed with someone they had just met had been hurt.


Many are also convicted or cautioned for prostitution and related offences.

According to NMPH figures, the younger the missing adult the more likely they are to turn up.

Males aged between 24 and 30 are more likely to disappear than any other group but among young people, females are more likely to go missing than males - the peak ages are from 13 to 17.

The reasons why people disappear vary widely but common reasons include family conflict, debt, abuse and alcohol, drug or solvent misuse.

For young people the most common reason is family conflict and abuse.

Among those aged 60 years or over, the most common reason is dementia or mental health problems.

See also:

24 Apr 02 | England
Amanda family's anguish goes on
05 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Police launch missing persons website
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