The number of missing persons with dementia has doubled in the last ten years, highlighting a growing concern, according to a report released by the National Police Agency. In 2022, a staggering 18,709 individuals with dementia were reported missing, marking a 6.1% increase from the previous year and setting a new record for the highest number of cases. This upward trend has been consistent since 2012 when the agency first started tracking the data, with 9,607 cases reported at that time.
As Japan’s population continues to age and the prevalence of dementia rises, it is expected that this alarming pattern will persist. Presently, over 6 million individuals are estimated to have dementia, and by 2025, projections suggest that 7 million people—equivalent to 1 in 5 individuals over the age of 65—will be diagnosed with the disease.
In response to the growing issue of missing dementia patients, various municipalities and organizations have begun implementing strategies to prevent such incidents. Collaborations with telecommunication companies have resulted in the development of smartphone apps aimed at tracking missing individuals. Additionally, electronic tracking systems have been deployed in cities to monitor the whereabouts of people living with dementia.
Recognizing the urgency of the matter, the welfare ministry has established a dedicated website for families seeking missing elderly individuals with dementia, providing a platform for support and guidance.
Out of the total number of dementia-related missing persons—considering cases prior to 2022—17,923 individuals were successfully located, while 491 individuals were reported to have passed away. Remarkably, 77.5% of those who were found were located on the same day they were reported missing, with an astonishing 99.5% being located within a week.
The report also revealed an overall increase in missing person cases, with a total of 84,910 cases reported in 2022, representing an increase of 5,692 cases from the previous year. This two-year consecutive rise follows a notable dip in 2020, which can be attributed to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Breaking down the data by age group, individuals in their 20s accounted for the highest number of missing person cases, totaling 16,848. Among this group, work-related issues, such as job loss or workplace conflicts, were cited as the primary reasons for disappearance. The second-highest number of cases involved teenagers, with 14,959 reports. For this age group, family-related issues were the leading factor contributing to their absence.
The concerning increase in dementia-related missing persons cases serves as a reminder of the need for heightened awareness and proactive measures to address the challenges faced by individuals living with dementia and their families. It emphasizes the importance of further support, technology-driven solutions, and community initiatives to ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals.