In France, the surveillance of hospitalized cases of pandemic influenza was implemented in July 2009 and restricted to intensive-care unit (ICU) patients in November. We described the characteristics of the 1065 adult patients admitted to ICUs and analysed risk factors for severe outcome (mechanical ventilation or death). Eighty-seven percent of cases were aged 15–64 years. The case-fatality ratio was 20%. The risk for severe outcome increased with age and obesity while this association was negative for chronic respiratory disease. Late antiviral therapy was associated with a severe outcome in ICU patients with risk factors (adjusted OR 2·0, 95% CI 1·4–3·0). This study confirms the considerable contribution of young adults to A(H1N1) 2009 mortality. It shows the role of obesity as an independent risk factor for severe disease, and of early antiviral therapy as a protective factor, at least in patients with risk factors.