The aim of this study was to determine the comorbid risk factors for failure in young patients who undergo fixation of a displaced fracture of the femoral neck. We identified from a prospective database all such patients ≤ 60 years of age treated with reduction and internal fixation. The main outcome measures were union, failure of fixation, nonunion and the development of avascular necrosis. There were 122 patients in the study. Union occurred in 83 patients (68%) at a mean follow-up of 58 months (18 to 155). Complications occurred in 39 patients (32%) at a mean of 11 months (0.5 to 39). The rate of nonunion was 7.4% (n = 9) and of avascular necrosis was 11.5% (n = 14). Failures were more common in patients over 40 years of age (p = 0.03). Univariate analysis identified that delay in time to fixation (> 24 hours), alcohol excess and pre-existing renal, liver or respiratory disease were all predictive of failure (all p < 0.05). Of these, alcohol excess, renal disease and respiratory disease were most predictive of failure on multivariate analysis. Younger patients with fractures of the femoral neck should be carefully evaluated for comorbidities that increase the risk of failure after reduction and fixation. In patients with a history of alcohol abuse, renal or respiratory disease, arthroplasty should be considered as an alternative treatment.