Previous studies have tended to focus on patients' risk of becoming depressed once diagnosed with diabetes.
The QOF currently awards eight points to GPs who screen for depression in patients with diabetes, but none for screening depressed patients for diabetes.
For this latest study, the researchers analysed 1,579 men and 1,418 women for signs of depression using the hospital anxiety and depression scale.
They then assessed them for signs of diabetes using oral glucose tolerance tests.
They found that patients with depression had a higher incidence of diabetes than patients who were not depressed.
Depressed men were found to have a 3.9-fold increased risk of diabetes, while depressed women were 1.5 times more likely to have diabetes.
Lead researcher Dr Richard Holt, from the University of Southampton, told the Diabetes UK conference that the data suggest that depression may pre-dispose diabetes.
'Clinicians should consider screening for diabetes in those with depression and vice versa,' he said.