Negative emotional outcomes (anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress) have been identified in patients discharged from intensive care. The aims of this prospective, longitudinal study were to assess levels of and changes in emotional outcome after intensive care, and to explore how these relate to objective and subjective indicators of the intensive care experience. Emotional outcome was assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression and Impact of Event Scales. Anxiety (p = 0.046) and depression (p = 0.001) were reduced subsequently, but not avoidance (p = 0.340) or intrusion (p = 0.419). Most objective (age, gender, length of ICU and hospital stay) and subjective indicators (as measured by the Intensive Care Experience Questionnaire) of the intensive care experience were related to negative emotional outcome. Subjective interpretation of the intensive care experience emerged as a consistent predictor of adverse emotional outcome, in both the short- and the long-term.