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No. of missing dementia patients in Japan hits record-high 17,565 in 2020

The entrance to Central Government Building No. 2, which houses the National Police Agency, is seen in this file photo taken in Tokyo in 2019. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The number of people with dementia or suspected dementia who were reported missing in 2020 rose to 17,565, continuing to post a record high figure every year since data became available in 2012, police said Thursday.

    The National Police Agency data showed the figure was up 86 from 2019 and has increased about 1.8 times in eight years, showing the issue of dementia is becoming alarmingly serious amid Japan's rapidly aging population.

    Of the reported missing, 214 were not found by the end of the year, while 16,887 including those reported missing before 2020 were located, according to the police data.

    It showed 74.2 percent of dementia sufferers who wandered off were found on the same day their disappearance was reported to police, while 99.3 percent were located within a week. Five people were found more than two years after they were reported missing.

    Meanwhile, 527 missing dementia patients died in accidents or due to other reasons, according to the data.

    According to estimates by the health ministry, the number of people suffering dementia is likely to expand to 7 million, or one in every five people aged 65 or over, in 2025.

    In 2019, the government adopted a new program to address the issue that focuses on prevention and helping patients with the illness live more comfortably.

    To help finding missing dementia patients, some local governments have started providing mobile global positioning system tracking devices for dementia patents, allowing police to find them quickly if they go unaccounted for.

    The number of overall people who went missing last year, including those who do not have dementia, dropped 9,911 to 77,022, the lowest since comparative data became available in 1956.

    An agency official said the causal relationship between the decline and the coronavirus pandemic is not known.

    Those who went missing in their 20s were the leading age group at 14,516, followed by teenagers at 12,860. Of the total, about 63.6 percent were male and about 36.4 percent were female.

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