ABSTRACT: INTRODUCTION: Data on quality of life beyond 2 years after intensive care discharge are limited and we aimed to explore this area further. Our objective was to quantify quality of life and health utilities in the 5 years after intensive care discharge. METHODS: A prospective longitudinal cohort study in a University Hospital in the UK. Quality of life was assessed from the period before ICU admission until 5 years and quality adjusted life years calculated. RESULTS: 300 level 3 intensive care patients of median age 60.5 years and median length of stay 6.7 days, were recruited. Physical quality of life fell to 3 months (P = 0.003), rose back to pre-morbid levels at 12 months then fell again from 2.5 to 5 years after intensive care (P = 0.002). Mean physical scores were below the population norm at all time points but the mean mental scores after 6 months were similar to those population norms. The utility value measured using the EuroQOL-5D quality of life assessment tool (EQ-5D) at 5 years was 0.677. During the five years after intensive care unit, the cumulative quality adjusted life years were significantly lower than that expected for the general population (P <0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Intensive care unit admission is associated with a high mortality, a poor physical quality of life and a low quality adjusted life years gained compared to the general population for 5 years after discharge. In this group, critical illness associated with ICU admission should be treated as a life time diagnosis with associated excess mortality, morbidity and the requirement for ongoing health care support.