The end point of critical illness most commonly used as a proxy for survival is discharge from the intensive care unit (ICU). Survival, however, is a far more complex phenomenon; patients who achieve discharge from ICU are very rarely left unchanged by their experience. An intensive care stay can have lasting effects on physical and psychological functioning; surviving the ICU stay is just one milestone on a longer journey. In this article different conceptual approaches to survival in the intensive care field are examined. Comparison is drawn between survival measures identified as important by patients and family members and those that are routinely captured in post-ICU care and post-hospital follow-up clinics. The case is made for routine assessment of survival indicators, such as symptom distress and anxiety/depression, following critical illness.