A total of 17,479 people with dementia or suspected dementia were reported missing in 2019, the most since authorities began collecting data in 2012, police said Thursday.

The National Police Agency data showed the figure was up 552 from 2018 and about 80 percent higher than in 2012, revealing that the issue of dementia is becoming increasingly serious as the nation's population grays rapidly.

Of those reported missing, 245 had not been found by the end of the year while 16,775, including people reported missing in 2018 or earlier, were located, according to the police data.