Every pound invested in cardiovascular disease research brings benefits worth 39p a year, forever, academics have calculated.
The year-long study into the financial and social benefits of investment in medical research, led by Brunel University, found that for mental health research the benefits were 37p per pound invested each year.
The study also found that public and charitable funding of medical research encouraged greater investment from the pharmaceutical industry.
Professor Martin Buxton from Brunel University's health economics research group said: "Estimating the returns on investment in medical research is notoriously difficult.
"This is partly due to the time it takes for research to filter into measurable health benefits.
"The methodology we came up with should help to assess the returns for different disease areas."
The group hopes the results will stimulate further research.
To read Medical Research: what's it worth?, go to www.wellcome.ac.uk